Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller speaks at the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. The federal government is committing $2.5 million dollars over the next two years to support the delivery of mental wellness services and prevention programs for Indigenous youth across Saskatchewan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Minister says change won’t come ‘overnight’ as new child-welfare law takes effect

The new law, passed as Bill C-92 last June

Some Indigenous communities could soon take over authority for their child-welfare systems under a federal law that took effect this week. But it could be years before others are prepared to take on the responsibility under what federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller calls a “complex” piece of legislation.

“This is a process that will be continual throughout the next few years, and the system which is broken will continue to be so for some time,” Miller told The Canadian Press Thursday.

“Each community has different capacities and preparedness,” the minister added.

“Some of the most vulnerable will just simply not be, because of issues of capacity, in a position to exercise the whole suite of options that would be available under the law.”

The new law, passed as Bill C-92 last June, affirms the rights of those communities to enforce their own rules around child and family services. It also shifts the focus of those services to preventing the removal of children from their families and communities.

The goal is to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous children currently under care and in generations to come.

Indigenous children account for more than half of all kids in foster care even though fewer than 10 per cent of all Canadian children are Indigenous, a statistic Miller calls “shocking.”

“Change will not come overnight,” Miller said.

“The only way to achieve this is to continue to work with our partners through this transition period to make sure the law works for First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, and most importantly, for their children.”

A number of Indigenous communities have already expressed keen interest in taking over those responsibilities.

Until Indigenous communities pass their own child-services laws, Miller said services currently provided to Indigenous children will continue as before.

However, under Bill C-92, which took effect Wednesday, Indigenous service providers will immediately have to apply basic principles set out in the act when a child comes into care, including consideration of the child’s physical and emotional well-being, the importance of the child’s relationship with his or her family and community and maintaining a connection to their culture.

ALSO WATCH: Journalists launch ‘Spotlight: Child Welfare’ series into B.C.’s foster system

Some Indigenous communities have expressed concerns that no stable funding to help them take over child-welfare services has been provided under the legislation.

The Assembly of First Nations has estimated the total cost of transitioning from federal and provincial care to community-based systems could reach $3.5 billion.

Some of that money could be scattered over several departments in the upcoming spring federal budget for things like social housing, family assistance programs and health care, Miller predicted.

But just how much of the spending will be earmarked this year will depend on the outcome of talks among various federal ministers, their provincial and territorial counterparts and Indigenous community leaders, he said.

The Quebec government is challenging the legislation, arguing that it infringes on provincial jurisdiction.

But the federal government will implement the law, regardless of any constitutional challenge, Miller said.

“We’ll be moving forward in any event.”

Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Small crowd gathers to watch 231-tonne stacker-reclaimer load onto barge crane

The Dynamic Beast barge crane, known for work with Johnson Street Bridge, makes a return

National Drug Drop-Off month aims to reduce substance abuse by house-bound youth

Expert says there is misconception prescribed medication is safe to take

Saanich Peninsula Hospital Auxiliary hosts pop-up fundraiser in Sidney

Temporary store to feature unique hand made gifts, collectibles, clothing, books and more

Victoria mayor wants newspaper boxes removed from downtown streets

Mayor Lisa Helps says the boxes are not needed, often filled with garbage

Esquimalt artists take to great outdoors amid coronavirus

Group invites budding, or just willing artists, to join at Saxe Point

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

Most Read