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FSIN planning to ask the feds for approximately $1.8B to fund social service changes

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron says the FSIN is requesting about $360 million annually for five years to implement Bill C-92.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron says the FSIN is requesting about $360 million annually for five years to implement Bill C-92. Mark Taylor/The Canadian Press

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) plan on issuing a formal funding request to the federal government in the near future. FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said they’re looking at just approximately $1.8 billion over five years to help their members implement their own child and family service organizations.

“That’s to develop the enabling legislation, build the institutions that we need, as well as the regulations and the policies and procedures,” FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt explained.

“That work’s already begun, but we need Canada to step up now. That work’s started, a lot of that work’s already happening on the ground, but we need Canada’s investment and the resourcing to be able to complete that work and be ready.”

READ MORE: New Indigenous child-welfare law takes effect, but minister says change will be slow

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Bill C-92 came into effect on Jan. 1, and affirmed the treaty rights of First Nations to be in charge of their own child and family services.

The FSIN welcomed the move, noting First Nations never ceded care of their children when the treaties were signed.

Pratt said that Cameron’s office expects to send a letter to Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller next week with their formal financial request.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. The federal government has made the commitment, Minister Miller was here in December. He met with us on the suicide prevention strategy, and told us, ‘let me know what your ask is, let us know what the needs are,’” Cameron said.

READ MORE: Trudeau government appeals ruling on compensation to First Nations children

Cameron said they are looking at funding requirements of around $360 million annually for five years. This totals $1.8 billion.

Areas the FSIN is looking for funding to help develop include their own children’s advocate office, an oversight committee to ensure high standards for member child and family service (CFS) agencies, and an institution to help member nations develop their own CFS legislation and agencies.

Under Bill C-92, First Nations must reach a tripartite CFS agreement with the federal and provincial government plus pass their own CFS legislation.

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READ MORE: First Nation in Sask. preparing to take control of child welfare

For example, Cowessess First Nation plans on ratifying their own CFS law on March 2. Chief Cadmus Delorme previously told Global News he wants to be a leader in showing First Nations can effectively run their own CFS agencies.

In addition to investments the FSIN wants to make in the Bill-92 implementation, Cameron described a number of plans the FSIN’s 74 member nations have.

Cameron wouldn’t get into specifics, but said planned investments include developing cultural and language resources alongside infrastructure and education investments.

“Prior to contact, we had all of these different things in place. We looked after our children, our children grew up healthy, our children grew up as leaders. We all had these values prior to contact,” Carry the Kettle Nakoda Nation Chief Brady O’Watch said.

“We had all these things in place, and just because a different nation comes in and says that’s not right – they shouldn’t dictate how we raise our kids.”

Nationally, Indigenous children make up 52 per cent of kids in government care despite only about eight per cent of children under 15-years-of-age being Indigenous.

“We must keep this in mind, and keep our focus on the well-being of Indigenous children as we address the broken system that has put children and families in this position,” Minister Miller’s press secretary, Vanessa Adams said in an emailed response.

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“We look forward to receiving the proposal from FSIN.”

Adams added that the ministry will continue to work with all partners to bring in systemic changes to fix a “broken system.”