A historic signing is taking place on the Cowessess First Nation.
Early this year, the Saskatchewan First Nation made history when it officially reasserted its right to care for and protect its children.
It will come to full fruition on Tuesday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe travel to the First Nation, east of Regina, to finalize the coordination and fiscal agreement.
“Since 1951, the jurisdiction of children in care was removed from Cowessess First Nation and the final decision-making responsibility and judicial decision-making power was driven by non-Cowessess First Nations laws,” Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme said in a statement.
Child welfare legislation was passed by Cowessess in March 2020 under Canada’s landmark Bill C-92, which empowers Indigenous communities to reclaim jurisdiction.
On April 1, the Miyo Pimatisowin Act came into effect, giving Cowessess full coast-to-coast jurisdiction over its children in care anywhere in the country.
Delorme previously estimated there were roughly 165 Cowessess children in government care.
“This responsibility is a part of our long-term goal of controlling our own plan to self-government based on our Inherent Rights and Treaty relationship,” Delorme said.
“This coordination agreement is a transition plan to assure the transfer of jurisdiction is professional and at the pace of Cowessess First Nation.
“The fiscal agreement confirms the investment the government of Canada and the government of Saskatchewan takes in supporting the Cowessess First Nation.”
Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge is CFN’s child safety body, providing preventative and protective services to keep families together.
Cowessess is hoping for roughly $20 million annually from both levels of government to operate the lodge.
The lodge employs fewer than 20 people, but Delorme told Global News earlier this year that it will expand to 60 in the coming years.
Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge oversees Sacred Wolf Lodge, which houses families struggling with trauma. Parents and children live there temporarily, healing with the help of lodge staff and kokums.
The lodge, which was operational prior to Thursday, already has a waitlist, Delorme said in April.
Last month, Cowessess announced the finding of an estimated 751 unmarked graves were found at the site of the former Marieval residential school.
The announcement came after a First Nation in Kamloops, B.C., reported in May that unmarked burial sites of 215 children were found on the site of the former Kamloops Residential School.