Vision Statement

NWAC envisions an inclusive world that understands and respects the diversity and uniqueness of all Indigenous women, girls, gender diverse people and families. Every Indigenous child and family deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential and build a strong identification of who they are within their own communities. They have the right to lead healthy lifestyles by maintaining balance in their spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health. They are entitled to have access to their history and traditional ways while attaining a high level of education through academics or knowledge keepers.  

You can see that the seeds we plant in childhood have lifelong consequences. If we plant seeds of discrimination, then we set in play a strong likelihood of a tragic and difficult adulthood. But if we plant the seeds of justice and equality and culture that breeds self-confidence, we’re going to see those same positive experiences grow throughout their lives.” 

Cindy Blackstock, member of the Gitxsan Nation and Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. This interview was conducted as part of a series of conversation with Indigenous advocates and leaders to mark the 10th anniversary of Amnesty International’s report Stolen Sisters.

Dream Catcher
Forest and Ferns

Summary

Prior to colonization, Indigenous communities and families had well-established systems of childcare and education rooted in the community, natural environment and spiritual teachings. These systems promoted safety and well-being for children and youth. In 1951, revisions to the Indian Act granted provincial child welfare agencies legal authority on reserves. This led to Indigenous children being taken into government care at a staggering rate.

These forcible removals into mainly non-Indigenous households have created a multitude of social and economic effects, including, and not limited to, youth homelessness, mental health issues and addiction, poverty, and loss of language and culture.

The Government of Canada has since formally apologized for their involvement in the residential school system. The Manitoba Government and Alberta Government are the only governments in Canada to have apologized for their participation in the 60’s Scoop. However, Indigenous children in Canada are still being removed from their families and communities at an alarming rate. There are currently more Indigenous children in the child welfare system than at the height of the residential school system, a phenomenon known as the “Millennium Scoop”.

In January 2019, The Native Women’s Association of Canada hosted a national conference on child and family services in conjunction with the new departments Indigenous Services Canada, and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. Service providers, government employees, representatives from Indigenous organizations and other participants from across Canada joined NWAC and Ministers Bennett and Philpott to discuss the current emergency state of child and family services for Indigenous families.

In February 2019, Indigenous Services Canada introduced Bill C-92, an Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. This Bill was co-developed with Indigenous partners, of which NWAC was excluded. The legislation seeks to affirm Indigenous people’s inherent right to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services, as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada’s fourth Call to Action which calls “upon the federal government to enact Aboriginal child-welfare legislation that establishes national standards for Aboriginal child apprehension”.

The Bill has now passed as an “Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families” and NWAC is making it a priority that NWAC, and Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people, are included at every step of the implementation process. Indigenous women are the primary care-givers of their children and their voices must be at every decision-making table.

It is imperative that the rights of Indigenous children and their mothers, aunties and other caregivers are recognized and protected. NWAC advocates on the issues of child welfare and child and family services through the development of policy, informing federal legislation and supporting the implementation and delivery of services at the national, provincial, territorial and local levels.

Recommendations

All Indigenous women and gender diverse people, whether they are status or non-status, must be included in discussions pertaining to their families. In the light of Bill C-92, an Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, the following recommendations must be applied to ensure all Indigenous women and gender diverse people are represented and respected:

1. Create a national committee to discuss the presentation and facilitation of Indigenous child and family services, and serve as a judicial body for complaints. This committee should be composed of experts (both lived experience and academic), front line workers, community members and Elders.  

2. Each community must be allowed to determine and prioritize what stage of readiness they are at and what is currently needed most out of child and family service organizations.  

3. Programs and services such as funding, infrastructure and Indigenous foster family incentives must be flexible and cater to the specific needs of Indigenous communities. The true cost and benefits of providing services in remote and rural communities must be documented and recognized.