Deal enshrines Indigenous community’s control of its child and family services in federal law under Bill C-92
The Splatsin First Nation in B.C.’s Shuswap has become the latest Indigenous community in Canada and the first in B.C. to take charge of its own child and family services under federal legislation that came into effect three years ago.
On Friday, Splatsin Kukpi7 (Chief) Doug Thomas was joined by federal Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu and B.C. Children and Family Development Minister Mitzi Dean in Enderby, B.C., for the signing of a “co-ordination agreement” enshrining the community’s child welfare program in federal law under Bill C-92.
Hajdu describes the signing as a historic milestone: the first such co-ordination agreement signed in B.C.
“Colonial and racist policies have left decades of intergenerational trauma by pulling families apart, but today is a new chapter in our country that will help with the ongoing healing and strengthening of community for First Nations peoples,” Hajdu said in a written statement.
Passed in June 2019, Bill C-92 — officially known as An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families — acknowledges Indigenous communities have the right to create their own child and family policies, with the intention of addressing the over-representation of Indigenous children in provincial care and to allow Indigenous children to receive culturally appropriate care.
Indigenous children accounted for 53.8 per cent of all children in the child welfare system, according to the 2021 census.
Ottawa commits $136.2 million
Since Bill C-92 came into force in January 2020, six Indigenous communities across the country have passed their own child and family services laws under Bill C-92’s legal framework, five of which have now signed co-ordination agreements with federal and provincial governments.
Under the agreement with the Splatsin, the federal government has committed to transferring $136.2 million to support the nation’s child and family services.
Chief Thomas says the agreement signed Friday means a continuation of his community’s Spallumcheen Child Welfare Program, which was introduced in 1980 as an independent and autonomous child and family services agency.
“It’s not just about the children — it’s the most important aspect of reconciliation and moving our community forward because if a child is left out in the wilderness, their odds of survival aren’t very good,” he told host Chris Walker on CBC’s Daybreak South.
Bill C-92 is being challenged at the Supreme Court of Canada by provincial and territorial governments in Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and the Northwest Territories, which argue the bill infringes on provincial jurisdiction.