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‘Stop the bull—t’: Timeline unclear as FSIN renews call for child welfare reform funding

FSIN vice Chief David Pratt says the federal government is breaking a promise to improve the lives of Indigenous children.
FSIN vice Chief David Pratt says the federal government is breaking a promise to improve the lives of Indigenous children. Global News

A whole lot of nothing has happened in the year since a bill supporting child welfare reform in Canada received royal assent, according to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN).

The Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, passed as Bill C-92, empowers Indigenous communities to retake control of child welfare services. Over the past 12 months, the FSIN has repeatedly called for federal funds to help implement the legislation — to no avail.

FSIN vice-chief David Pratt is fed up with what he calls government inaction and hollow gestures.

Read more: Spike in deaths, majority Indigenous children, reported to Saskatchewan child advocate: report

“I don’t give a damn if you can say hello in our language. I want you to write the g–damn cheque and fix the problems with our kids and fulfill your fiduciary obligations,” Pratt told Global News.

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“Stop the bull—t because it’s costing lives.”

Last year, 34 children died in Saskatchewan’s care, according to a report from the province’s child advocate. Twenty-nine of those children were First Nations or Métis.

No apparent timeline

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) spokesperson William Olscamp said the department can’t presume how Indigenous communities will choose to reassert their jurisdiction over child welfare.

ISC is working with its partners to identify funding needs, he said in a written statement.

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

“The funding requirements for each Indigenous governing body will vary depending on the model being proposed and their distinct needs,” the statement reads.

“Discussions on how to implement Bill C-92, including implementation costs, will be done through a distinction-based governance mechanism as well as at the coordination agreement tables.”

Olscamp did not respond to questions about funding timelines and the meaning of “distinction-based governance mechanism.”

‘A huge task’

Determining the dollar value of a system overhaul isn’t as simple as slapping a price tag on the operating costs of child and family service agencies.

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“There’s a number of interconnected issues that are all related to child welfare, so it’s a huge task,” Pratt said, noting the transition will take years.

Those issues — addiction, poverty and mental illness — stem from intergenerational trauma rooted in discriminatory practices of previous governments, including residential schools and the Sixties Scoop.

Pratt said addressing those issues will help reduce the hugely disproportionate number of children in Saskatchewan’s care — 86 per cent, according to recent numbers from the social services ministry.

Read more: Number of children in Saskatchewan’s care hits 11-year high, with 86% identified as Indigenous

Ottawa’s investment in the implementation of Bill C-92 must include supports for tackling colonial trauma and creating healthy households, Pratt said.

“The end goal is for us to be able to opt out and get out from the provincial child welfare act,” he said, “which we feel is a failure to our children and continues to fail First Nations.”

FSIN, Sask. NDP slam province’s child welfare approach, call for systemic change
FSIN, Sask. NDP slam province’s child welfare approach, call for systemic change