Archived News Releases

News Release - Manitoba

December 2, 2015

PROVINCE TO INTRODUCE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS THAT WOULD SUPPORT TRADITIONAL METHOD OF CARE FOR INDIGENOUS CHILDREN

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Government Takes Steps to Support Indigenous Family, Community Values: Minister Irvin-Ross

Proposed legislation under the Child and Family Services Act would benefit Indigenous children in need of protection while maintaining cultural ties with their home community, Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross announced today.

“Recognizing customary care as a new option for Indigenous children and families is another important step forward for our children and families,” said Minister Irvin-Ross.  “It fills a need identified by many Manitobans to further the rights of Indigenous people to participate in determining care and planning for their children, and allows Indigenous leadership and communities to immediately develop care models specifically for their needs.” 

The proposed legislation would underscore the importance of Indigenous communities determining and carrying out care of their children, according to traditional customs, the minister said.  The province will consult with Indigenous communities to determine what customary care would look like for each of them, the minister added.

The minister said that under the proposed legislation:

  • there would be an increased focus on prevention and supporting families to prevent children from coming into the care of Manitoba Child and Family Services (CFS);
  • Indigenous communities, in collaboration with CFS agencies, would be directly involved in developing care plans, in arranging and planning supports and services for children and families; 
  • parents would maintain guardianship of their children in customary care arrangements;
  • there would be an understanding that family healing takes time; and
  • there would be collaborative planning for healing, family reunification and permanency opportunities for CFS-involved families.

“These proposed legislative changes would support an increased number of culturally appropriate caregivers in Manitoba and may reduce the number of Indigenous children in care,” said Minister Irvin-Ross.  “We have heard from Indigenous leadership that children are the collective responsibility of the community and look forward to working with them to develop customary care models that reflect these values.”

The minister noted these proposed changes would support recommendations made and concerns raised by key stakeholderssuch as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC)report entitled Bring Our Children Home and the Hughes’ report on the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry.

“The mandate of the AMC has been to ensure that we remain committed to implementing mechanisms of customary care,” said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, AMC.  “My early meetings with the premier in advancing this matter are now materializing in a format that empowers our families and communities to take on roles and responsibilities that are currently limited within the existing regulatory and legislative framework.”

“MKO is committed to seeking the wisdom of our grandmothers and families to guide our work to protect and ensure the well-being of our children and families,” said Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.  “MKO is also committed to achieving reconciliation between governments and our families and First Nations in the spirit of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry-Child Welfare Initiative.  MKO has not yet been directly engaged in developing the proposed legislative framework for Customary Care of Indigenous Children.  I am optimistic about the commitment of the provincial government to work directly with our grandmothers, our families and with MKO to develop legislation that will establish a customary care framework.”

In his report on how to better protect Manitoba children, which was submitted in December 2013, commissioner Ted Hughes called child welfare a “shared responsibility” and recommended a “collaborative approach” to supporting families and protecting children.   He stated in his report, “Over the long term, prevention strategies, such as family support workers, and participation by other governmental and community agencies and organizations will reduce the burden on the child welfare system.”

The proposed legislative changes would support a spectrum of prevention and protection services, developed in consultation with communities and the leadership, the minister said.  They would incorporate Indigenous family and community values, and promote natural cultural resiliency and positive cultural identity through the child’s continued connection with their language, family and community, the minister added.

The proposed legislation would unite biological parents, family members, customary care providers, community and leadership in collaboratively planning the journey towards healing and reunification, Minister Irvin-Ross added. 

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