Continuing the conversation: engagement questions

The Government of Canada is committed to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through a renewed nation-to-nation, government-to-government, and Inuit-Crown relationship based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership as the foundation for transformative change. One of the most urgent priorities for change is the current humanitarian crisis where Indigenous children are vastly disproportionately over-represented in the child and family services system.

From the Government of Canada's perspective, on-going engagement on child and family services reform provides a valuable opportunity to build on the knowledge, expertise and experience of individuals and organizations across the country. Underlying this vision is the principle that partners and stakeholders are engaged in informing the decision-making process on issues that affect them. In this spirit, the Government of Canada encourages First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation leadership and all partners involved in the child and family services system to join the dialogue that will help to advance our common objective: transforming Indigenous child and family services so that children can grow in a safe environment and families can stay together.

The Government of Canada's First Nations Child and Family Services Program funds agencies that provide child and family services on reserves. In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that this program was discriminatory against First Nation children on reserves by failing to provide the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere. The decision compared on-reserve child welfare to the residential schools system, where "the fate and future of many First Nations children is still being determined by the government" and less funding for family support means that more children ended up in the child welfare system. There have been many other calls for child family services reform for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada: in addition to the Tribunal rulings, numerous documents, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and the Interim Report on National Advisory Committee on First Nations Child and Family Services  have outlined the need for federal legislation as a critical tool to help reform child and family services. Minister Philpott recognized that the disproportionate number of Indigenous children currently in the child welfare system has created a "humanitarian crisis" in our country.

As we continue to seek your views, we want to be very clear: the federal government will not impose legislation. This ongoing engagement process seeks to clarify whether co-created options for potential federal legislation can be a useful tool to affirm the rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and families and, if so, what this should look like. We will not proceed alone.

Following the January 2018 Emergency Meeting on First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation Child and Family Services, the Government of Canada committed to a six-point plan of action to:

  1. continue to fully implement the orders from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal including Jordan's Principle, and reform First Nations child and family services including moving to a flexible funding model
  2. work with partners to shift the focus of programming to culturally-appropriate prevention, early intervention, and family reunification
  3. work with our partners to support communities to draw down jurisdiction in the area of child and family services, including exploring co-developed federal legislation
  4. participate and accelerate the work at tripartite and technical tables that are in place across the country in supporting reform
  5. support Inuit and Métis Nation leadership in their work to advance meaningful, culturally appropriate reform of child and family services
  6. create a data strategy with provinces/territories and Indigenous partners to increase inter-jurisdictional data collection, sharing and reporting to better understand the rates and reasons for apprehension

The Government of Canada is committed to co-creating options for potential federal legislation on child and family services that respect the distinct cultural approaches and contextual realities of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. There can be no "one-size-fits all approach", and any approach must respect the inherent right of self-government as an existing Aboriginal right under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Based on the Emergency Meeting and other foundational discussions, several themes on child and family services legislation emerged:

  1. a possible federal statutory basis for equitable, predictable, flexible and needs-based funding for First Nations, Inuit and Métis child and family safety and wellnessFootnote 1
  2. a possible federal statutory basis for expanding child and family services models eligible for federal funding to include First Nations, Inuit and Métis, including enabling the exercise of jurisdictionFootnote 2
  3. guiding principles/standards
  4. enforcement mechanisms
  5. other measures identified through engagement as essential for a federal enabling legislative approach

This engagement is stage one of a proposed two-stage process. Stage one, between summer and fall 2018, is to focus on co-developing options for potential federal legislation that build on the broad-based direction shared at the Emergency Meeting and received by other Indigenous organizations, such as the resolutionFootnote 3 passed in May 2018 by the Assembly of First Nation calling for federal legislation within the current federal mandate. Stage two, building on the proposed legislative phase, would engage First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders, experts and organizations in designing and identifying other matters affecting children, youth and families that could be addressed by the federal government through policies, regulations or other mechanisms.

The following questions are meant to guide the engagement process for co-creating options for potential federal child and family services legislation.

Questions to guide child and family services engagement

The following questions are meant to guide the engagement process for co-creating options for potential federal child and family services legislation.

Engagement process

  • 1) The Government of Canada has proposed a two-stage approach for co-creating options for proposed legislation and addressing other matters that affect First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children, youth, and families. Do you agree with this process, or which process would you recommend?

Principles/values

  • 2) What are some of the core principles that federal legislation on child and family services should include? Why do you think this?

Jurisdiction

  • 3) How could federal legislation enable First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples to fully exercise their right to ensure the safety and best interests of the child? What tools or levers are required?

  • 4) How could federal legislation respect the different aspirations, contexts and stages of readiness of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples across Canada regarding child and family services? Why do you think this?

  • 5) Do the roles of provinces and territories need to be reflected in federal legislation? If so, how?

Specific issues

  • 6) Federal legislation on child and family services could include guidance on issues such as funding, training, education and healing. What should be included in the legislation to give guidance on these and other issues?

  • 7) What enforcement measures, if any, should be included in the federal legislation? Why do you think this?

Data and reporting

  • 8) At the Emergency Meeting on Indigenous Child and Family Services in January 2018, participants acknowledged a lack of data on Indigenous children in care (e.g. number of children apprehended, why they are apprehended, where they are placed). Do you think legislation could be a tool to help address this gap? If so, what could this look like? Which indicators are most important and how should they be reported?

To participate

To gather input from as many Indigenous peoples and other Canadians as possible, answers can be submitted in different ways. Send your answers:

You may also participate in an engagement session by sending a request to the email above.

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