Incremental Changes Underway in Indigenous Child Protection
The Child, Family and Community Service Amendment Act (“Bill 26”) (“CFCSA”), comprised of 49 clauses, was tabled in the legislature on April 24th, 2018 for first reading.1 Several amendments were proposed as an interim step to improve the Indigenous child welfare system in BC. In a letter to Indigenous organizations2, the government notes that amendments were developed in keeping with the recommendations set out in Indigenous Resilience, Connectedness and Reunification – From Root Causes to Root Solutions: A Report on Indigenous Child Welfare in British Columbia, prepared by special advisor, Grand Chief Ed John (“Final Report”).3 The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and the Metis Nation Relationship Accord II were also considered in the drafting process.
Aside from appropriate definitional changes, Bill 26 aims to increase the involvement of Indigenous communities in child protection matters at every stage – prior to removal, after legal proceedings have commenced and following the making of a continuing custody order. This would be accomplished, in part, by improvements to notice requirements as well as greater information sharing and collaboration between the Ministry of Children and Family Development and Indigenous communities. Importantly, the proposed changes affirm that Indigenous children are entitled to “learn about and practice their Indigenous traditions, customs and languages, and belong to their Indigenous communities.”
On April 26, 2018, the BC Aboriginal Justice Council (“BCAJC”) issued a statement in response to Bill 26, expressing concern that it falls short of the transformative change needed to counter the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care. The BCAJC further commented that “the proposed amendments to the CFCSA were developed unilaterally, with limited opportunities for Indigenous comments, rather than meaningful active involvement of Indigenous Nations in authoring the legislation.”4 Similarly, in a letter to the Ministry of Children and Family Development on March 22, 2018, the BC Métis Federation raised concerns about the consultation process and asserted that the proposed amendments will “not effect real change for our Métis families and communities.”5
Only 10 of the 85 recommendations from Grand Chief Ed John’s Final Report were utilized in the amendments. In the spirit of reconciliation, clearly the government is making an effort with Bill 26, but significantly more work is needed to change the trajectory of Indigenous children in care.
- 3rd Sess., 41st Leg, British Columbia, 2018 [Bill 26].| ↩
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Frances Rosner is a Métis lawyer working as a sole practitioner in Vancouver.