In a historic deal, the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) was recognized as its own child and family service agency Thursday.
This means they are in charge of what happens to its First Nation children who need care.
The STC previously had a partnership with Ottawa and the province to help Indigenous children needing care.
Now, six of its seven member First Nations will work with STC directly, not the province.
Tribal Chief Mark Arcand said the goal is to keep children close to home.
“I can guarantee you right now we are not taking any children away from our First Nations,” he said.
“They’re going to go into the kinship program inside of the communities to be with relatives and families, they are not going to leave our communities.”
Arcand said if children can’t be with their parents they won’t be put in the system. Instead, they’ll go to a family member, friend or foster home within the community.
Ottawa is giving the STC over $23 million a year for three years, or around $71 million total.
The STC said it plans to hire 40 to 50 staff as psychologists, sexual abuse therapists, speech pathologists and other services to help children and families address trauma and heal instead of perpetuating cycles.
“In this model, our psychologists will be working with our community elders, going out to community and working with kids, families right now so they’re being assessed and being helped,” Arcand explained.
He said the aim is preventing kids from being taken away from their families, and instead working within the community to ideally keep them connected to their culture.
“We have never given up our rights to our kids and we won’t,” he said.
“That’s something we’ll stand behind and we’ll stand in solidarity because we wouldn’t want this to happen to any other race, culture, identity — it’s not right. It destroys people, it destroys families, it destroys communities.”
“If you want to destroy a nation you remove the ability of people to have effective control over their land, effective governance over their land, you destroy their culture and you destroy the family unit,” he said.
Arcand said it’s important Indigenous people take back control of their children’s futures, and their families. More children are in care today in Canada than attended residential school, Arcand said.
Arcand said this funding from the federal government shows a real desire for change and reconciliation through actions in Canada.
He said the next steps are to help its member First Nations take over child care completely — the ultimate goal of Bill C-92.
Arcand said they hope to do this within the next five years.