(Ottawa, ON) – Following the introduction of federal legislation on Indigenous child welfare today in Parliament, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said that First Nations children are the first priority and any legislation must ensure they grow up valued and connected to their families, cultures and nations.
“This legislation is first and foremost about First Nations children and their safety, their security and their future,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “The tragedy of thousands of First Nations children in care tells us we need a new approach. This legislation will recognize First Nations jurisdiction so they can build their own systems based on their own governance, laws and policies. Our focus has to be on prevention over apprehension, and keeping children close to their cultures and families. We need investments to support this work, and we need everyone to support this approach. The time is long overdue for First Nations to finally regain responsibility over our children.”
Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan introduced the proposed federal legislation this morning in the House of Commons. The legislation was developed with input by the AFN legislative working group comprised of technicians and experts from across the country drawing on years of advocacy and direction.
“First Nations value our children and want to keep them in the centre of the circle of our families and nations,” said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who leads AFN’s work in this area. “We have our traditional laws, approaches and protocols that will guide our work in setting up systems to care for our children, keep them safe and ensure they learn and live their cultures and languages. It is time for all governments to work with First Nations to ensure a seamless transition so that no child is left behind. We must all commit to this work on the understanding that our children are at the heart of our efforts.”
On November 30, 2018, National Chief Bellegarde stood with former Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott and the leaders of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Métis National Council to announce work aimed at introducing the federal legislation on Indigenous child and family services.
January 26 marked three years since the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled the federal government discriminates against First Nations children and families on reserve. Last January former Indigenous Services Minister Philpott convened an emergency meeting of First Nation, Métis and Inuit leaders, provincial and territorial representatives and child welfare experts and committed the federal government to six points of action which included co-developed legislation on Indigenous child welfare.
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
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