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Indigenous leader accuses Saskatchewan of delaying child welfare reform for jobs

David Pratt says First Nations in the province are ready to assume control of Indigenous child welfare, but believes the provincial government is dragging its heels.
David Pratt says First Nations in the province are ready to assume control of Indigenous child welfare, but believes the provincial government is dragging its heels. Phillip Bollman / Global News

An Indigenous leader in Saskatchewan is accusing the provincial government of keeping the status quo when it comes to child welfare because of social work jobs.

David Pratt, a vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, has joined the Opposition NDP in pressing the government on what it’s doing to transfer jurisdiction of Indigenous child welfare to their communities.

Pratt says the number of Indigenous children in care in Saskatchewan amounts to crisis.

The federal Liberal government introduced legislation earlier this year with the hope of reforming child welfare and reducing the over-representation of Indigenous kids in foster care.

READ MORE: FSIN calls for more funding to make feds’ new child welfare program workable

“Our 17 agencies, we’re well prepared. Saskatchewan First Nations are ready to take over,” Pratt said Wednesday.

“There’s no way non-Indigenous people can implement First Nations culture.”

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Pratt says First Nations in the province are ready to assume control of Indigenous child welfare, but believes the provincial government is dragging its heels because of bureaucracy and wanting to maintain the number of jobs.

“I’m talking about social workers, right. Because a lot of times we’re an industry,” he said.

READ MORE: FSIN welcomes federal proposed changes to Indigenous child welfare system

Minister of Social Services Paul Merriman disagrees and says the province has successful partnerships with First Nations organizations that care for children and youth.

Whether on or off reserve, he said, the province wants to make sure a child has contact with their family and he’s open to working with First Nations and Metis groups to help recruit more Indigenous caregivers.

“Social services never wants to take children into care. That is always a last resort,” Merriman said.

New programs have been implemented to help keep children with their parents, he said.

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