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B.C. creates new provincial position to focus on Indigenous child welfare

Director will oversee transition of Indigenous child welfare jurisdiction to First Nations
An ‘Every Child Matters’ flag seen during the second annual South Island Powwow at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C. is introducing a new provincial position to oversee the transfer of Indigenous child welfare jurisdiction to First Nations communities.

The province says the Indigenous child welfare director will hold the same powers as the provincial director of child welfare and will work to combine the rights and laws of First Nations with those of the province and federal government.

The position comes as B.C. and First Nations work together on bettering child welfare conditions for Indigenous children, who are overrepresented in the system and have a history of at times being mistreated while in it. Part of this work has meant giving First Nations control over child welfare within their communities.

The change, which was introduced in the Indigenous Self-Government in Child and Family Services Amendment Act in November 2022, is expected to impact some 3,403 Indigenous children.

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The new director will provide guidance on Indigenous child welfare services, focus on preventative supports to decrease the number of children ending up in care and work to combine First Nations rights and laws with provincial ones.

Chief Don Tom, vice-president of Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said in a statement that he is hopeful this will increase accountability and support for First Nations children.

Cheryl Casimer, political executive with First Nations Summit, added that the position is long overdue.

“It is our expectation that the new director will have tremendous influence in changing the colonial policies and practices of the current child welfare system, and that they will advocate for new policies, practices and approaches that respect and support the exercise of jurisdiction by First Nations,” she said in a statement.

British Columbia Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee said more reform and community-driven approaches will be needed to solve the overrepresentation of Indigenous kids in the welfare system, but that he is pleased with this step.

The province says it is now looking to fill the position.

Black Press Media Staff

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