The Government of Canada is working together with Indigenous partners on the implementation of the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families in order to reform Indigenous child and family services.
The Act respecting First Nation, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families is a historic turning point for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children and families. It will finally put in place what Indigenous Peoples across this country have been asking of governments for decades: that their jurisdiction over child and family services be affirmed so that they can decide what is best for their children, their families, and their communities.
Today, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, together with Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, participated in a signing ceremony for a Protocol that was co-developed by both organizations to establish a new structure to support discussions on the implementation of the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.
Key elements of the Protocol include:
- a commitment to regular bilateral meetings on the Act and on the co-development of schedule and agenda;
- support for the development of national distinctions-based policy through the establishment of the Joint National Working Group on Legislative Implementation in relation to First Nations;
- the development and creation of tools and mechanisms at the federal level to support implementation of the Act; and
- the establishment of a Joint Fiscal Table on First Nations Child and Family Services reform to explore and identify fiscal issues relevant to First Nations implementation of the legislation.
These discussions would work in coordination with existing First Nations child and family services discussions, including those with section 35 rights holders, the National Advisory Committee on First Nations Child and Family Services Reform and the Consultation Committee on Child Welfare.
This Protocol will not interfere with the unique rights of section 35 rights-holders, including groups not wishing to be represented by the AFN. It recognizes that individual First Nations governments have the autonomy to enter into arrangements or agreements, or to take other implementation steps according to their own priorities and will not impose a structure on all Nations or Inuit and Métis groups. The Protocol will, however, help guide discussions surrounding the implementation of the Act to ensure that they continue in a spirit of co-development.
“Just as the Act was co-developed with partners, the signing of this Protocol with the Assembly of First Nations will help ensure that discussions surrounding its implementation happen in a way that works for First Nations, and the children of their community. By formalizing discussions on the Act’s implementation, we are working together to reduce the number of Indigenous children in care.”
The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Indigenous Services
“This protocol will ensure that Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, is fully implemented and adheres to a First Nations distinctions based approach that formally acknowledges First Nations Inherent Rights, and best knowledge when it comes to the well-being of our children. First Nations children deserve to grow up in a home that is full of love, culturally relevant, and has the resources to ensure success in life.”
National Chief, Assembly of First Nations
The over-representation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in the child and family services system has been described as a humanitarian crisis; according to Census 2016 data, Indigenous children make up 7.7% of all children between the ages of 0 and 14 but account for 52.2% of children in foster care in private homes.
On February 28, 2019, the Government introduced Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families (the Act). This legislation was co-developed with Indigenous, provincial, and territorial partners with the goal of keeping Indigenous children and youth connected to their families, communities, and culture.
The Act is the culmination of extensive engagements with national, regional, and community organizations, with representatives from First Nations, Inuit and Métis, as well as Treaty Nations, self-governing First Nations, experts and those with lived experience, as well as discussions with the Provinces and Territories.
Through the Act, national principles such as the best interests of the child, cultural continuity, and substantive equality have been established to help guide the provision of Indigenous child and family services.
The Act also enables Indigenous groups and communities to transition toward exercising partial or full jurisdiction over child and family services at a pace that they choose.
The Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families came into force on January 1, 2020