Truth and Reconciliation, 94 calls to action 

By Cory Bilyea

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Truth and Reconciliation 94 calls to action are a direct result of the Indian Residential School settlement agreement that began in September 2007, intending to bring a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools (IRS).

Midwestern Newspapers will look at the 94 calls to action and what progress has been made to-date in a series of articles to inform local readers of the ongoing developments.

The Government of Canada’s website explained: “Some 150,000 Indigenous children were removed and separated from their families and communities to attend residential schools. While most of the 139 Indian Residential Schools ceased to operate by the mid-1970s, the last federally-run school closed in the late 1990s. In May 2006, the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement was approved by all parties to the Agreement.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission stated that its mandate is to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools. Accordingly, the commission documented the truth of survivors, families, communities, and anyone personally affected by the IRS experience.

First Nations, Inuit, and Metis former Indian Residential School students, their families, communities, the churches, former school employees, government, and other Canadians are said to be included in this commission.

The calls to action are broken down into categories, and each article will cover one of these, which may include more than one call.

The first category is titled Child Welfare.

 

  1. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care by:

 

  1. Monitoring and assessing neglect investigations.

 

  1. Providing adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together where it is safe to do so and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments, regardless of where they reside.

 

iii. Ensuring that social workers and others who conduct child-welfare investigations are properly educated and trained about the history and impacts of residential schools.

1.Ensuring that social workers and others who conduct child-welfare investigations are properly educated and trained about the potential for Aboriginal communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing.

2.Requiring that all child-welfare decision-makers consider the impact of the residential school experience on children and their caregivers.

3.We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, to prepare and publish annual reports on the number of Aboriginal children (First Nations, Inuit, and Metis) who are in care, compared with non-Aboriginal children, as well as the reasons for apprehension, the total spending on preventive and care services by child-welfare agencies, and the effectiveness of various interventions.

4.We call upon all levels of government to fully implement Jordan’s Principle.

5.We call upon the federal government to enact Aboriginal child-welfare legislation that establishes national standards for Aboriginal child apprehension and custody cases and includes principles that:

 

  1. Affirm the right of Aboriginal governments to establish and maintain their own child welfare agencies.
  2. Require all child welfare agencies and courts to take the residential school legacy into account in their decision-making.

iii. Establish, as an important priority, a requirement that placements of Aboriginal children into temporary and permanent care be culturally appropriate.

  1. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs for Aboriginal families.

“Indigenous Watchdog” is an online platform that delivers current, comprehensive, and insightful information on critical Indigenous issues impacting First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples.

The organization’s website said, “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action are the starting point for an exploration into a broad range of current events that are currently mesmerizing Canadians from coast-to-coast.”

The following is information from that website and the Government of Canada’s website.

According to the 2016 Census, 52.2 per cent of children in foster care are Indigenous, accounting for only 7.7 per cent of the child population in Canada.

14,970 out of 28,665 foster children in private homes under the age of 15 are Indigenous.

Results from the 2011 National Household Survey also show that 38 per cent of Indigenous children in Canada live in poverty, compared to seven per cent for non-Indigenous children.

Indigenous Watchdog is a guide to what is working and what is not, as the struggle for “reconciliation” shapes what Canada will become in the future.

The Watchdog has compiled a list of progress on reducing the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care, breaking it down into three distinct lenses.

 

Federal Government:

June 21, 2019 _ Bill C-92: An Act Respecting First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Children, Youth, and Families received Royal assent. Co-developed with Indigenous partners, Bill C-92 affirms Indigenous peoples’ inherent right to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services.

Feb. 12, 2020- The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) files a federal class-action lawsuit to seek damages and justice for the thousands of First Nations children and families that have been discriminated against by Canada?s child welfare system that incentivized the removal of First Nation children from their families and Nations.

Sept. 4, 2020- According to the Canadian Press, the federal government has agreed to certify the claims put forward by the Assembly of First Nations and the Moushoom class counsel and enter into mediation to reach a negotiated settlement.

Nov. 27, 2020- The 2020 Fall Economic Statement announced funding of $542 million over five years to support the Indigenous Child Welfare Act and support First Nations, Inuit, and Metis engagement to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services and advance the implementation of the Act.

July 7, 2020- Government and Assembly of First Nations have signed a protocol confirming First Nations distinctions-based approach to implementing the Indigenous Child Welfare Act.

March 23, 2021- Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, announced the launch of a call for proposals to support Indigenous Peoples, communities, and groups as they begin work to develop their own legislation and explore Indigenous-led models for child and family services.

April 19, 2021- Budget 2021 announced $1 billion over five years, and $118.7 million ongoing starting in 2021-22, to increase funding under the First Nations Child and Family Services program.

Provincial Actions:

Dec. 19, 2019- The Quebec government has launched a legal challenge in Quebec Court of Appeal to assess the constitutionality of Bill C-92: An Act Respecting First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Children, Youth, and Families. The Quebec and Labrador Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Ghislain Picard, called Quebec’s move “shameful” and “unacceptable.”

“Defending its so-called jurisdiction is one thing but doing it on the back of our children is another,” said Picard at the time of Quebec’s announcement.

July 29, 2020- As of Oct. 15, 2020, Ontario will no longer issue Birth Alerts to apprehend Indigenous babies along with Manitoba (June 30, 2020) and BC (Sept. 16, 2019). On Jan. 25, 2021, Saskatchewan announced that they would end the practice on Feb. 1, 2021. Currently, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec practice birth alerts.

(Toronto Star, Jan. 15, 2021)

Jan. 25, 2021- Saskatchewan announced that they would end the use of Birth Alerts on Feb. 1, 2021, as will P.E.I. (Feb. 5, CBC)

May 3, 2021- Research, data, and information collected from consultations with key stakeholders indicate that systemic racism_in the health, education, child welfare, housing, and justice (including policing and corrections) systems_is a major issue facing Indigenous Peoples in Alberta. The Alberta Human Rights Commission is launching an Indigenous Human Rights Strategy to guide the commission’s practices and initiatives with the goal of reducing barriers that Indigenous individuals and communities face. It also aims to enhance the commission’s interaction with Indigenous Albertans and communities.

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal:

Sept. 6, 2019- Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) awarded $2 million in damages to First Nations children apprehended by child welfare authorities on or after Jan. 1, 2006, as well as to those denied essential services as per Jordan’s Principle.

Jordan’s Principle is named in memory of Jordan River Anderson.

He was a young boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba.

Jordan’s Principle makes sure all Indigenous children living in Canada can access the products, services, and supports they need when they need them. Funding can help with a wide range of health, social and educational needs, including the unique needs that Indigenous Two-Spirit and LGBTQQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and allies) children and youth and those with disabilities may have.

Legacy of Jordan River Anderson

Jordan was born in 1999 with multiple disabilities and stayed in the hospital from birth.

When he was two years old, doctors said he could move to a special home for his medical needs. However, the federal and provincial governments could not agree on who should pay for his home-based care.

Jordan stayed in the hospital until he passed away at the age of five.

In 2007, the House of Commons passed Jordan’s Principle in memory of Jordan. It was a commitment that First Nations children would get the products, services, and supports they need when they need them.

Payments would be worked out later.

Today, Jordan’s Principle is a legal obligation, which means it has no end date. While programs and initiatives to support it may only exist for short periods of time, Jordan’s Principle will always be there. Jordan’s Principle will support First Nations children for generations to come.

This is the legacy of Jordan River Anderson.

Indigenous film director Alanis Obomsawin released a film in 2019 called Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger.

What the government says it is doing

The Government of Canada website says they have made “historic investments” to support on-reserve Indigenous children to improve their education and address housing needs.

The 2016 Canadian budget included funding of $635 million, spread out over five years, and called it “a first step in addressing funding gaps in First Nations Child and Family Services.” The website stated that this money was to provide greater support for culturally appropriate prevention services and front-line service delivery.

The 2018 budget announced additional funds of $1.4 billion, spread out over six years, “starting in fiscal year 2017 to 2018, for the First Nations Child and Family Services Program to address the funding pressures facing child and family service agencies, while increasing prevention resources so that children are safe and families can stay together.”

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is part of the Canadian government and is headed by Marc Miller.

ISC states that its mandate is to “work collaboratively with partners to improve access to high quality services for First Nations, Inuit and Metis. Our vision is to support and empower Indigenous peoples to independently deliver services and address the socio-economic conditions in their communities.”

ICS is currently focused on “fully implementing the orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, including reimbursement of funding to First Nations child and family services agencies based on actual costs for prevention, intake and investigation, legal fees, building repairs and small agencies in the best interest of the child, as well as reforming the First Nations Child and Family Services Program.”

“These solutions, however, are multi-faceted and will require collaboration with First Nations partners, the provinces and territories to ensure that the well-being of children comes first,” states ISC.

“The Government of Canada will continue to collaborate with First Nations, Inuit, and Metis, as well as other partners, to advance the reforms to child and family services that are needed and develop Indigenous-led solutions that put the well-being of children first. For example, $1 million in funding was provided to the Metis National Council to support their work on engagement and consultation to advance culturally appropriate reform.

“The government is also engaged in over 80 Recognition of Indigenous Rights and Self-Determination discussions tables through which Canada and Indigenous groups explore new ideas and ways to reach agreements that will recognize the rights of Indigenous groups and advance their vision of self-determination for the benefit of their communities and all Canadians. In many of the existing discussions Indigenous groups have identified child and family services as an important subject for discussion.”

The next article will cover calls to action on education, language and culture.

 Cory Bilyea   is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the WINGHAM ADVANCE TIMES. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

 

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