Indigenous Agencies and Bill C-92

Indigenous Child and Family Service agencies are crucial to this change

In order to draw down jurisdiction over child and family services, an Indigenous community or group must have the capacity to complete a long checklist of tasks. Many of these tasks require the kind of knowledge held by the agencies that are already providing support and services to Indigenous children, youth, and families.

Before a request to enter into negotiations can be made, the Indigenous community must provide a detailed run-down of the child and family service legislation that will be adopted. They also must provide a work plan which includes information about who will be administering services and how services will be made available, as well as an itemized and detailed financial plan. This presents a huge challenge: it can be very difficult to know what you will need before you have even begun the work.

Indigenous child and family service agencies in B.C. have been doing the work and they know where funding is lacking. They have seen the results when programs are underfunded and staff is overwhelmed. They have crucial knowledge about federal child and family laws that have hindered their work of serving families in a culturally safe and holistic way. This knowledge can be drawn upon when creating the documents necessary to enter into negotiation. After all, the 12-month timeline is short and the list of tasks associated with jurisdiction is long.

Once jurisdiction is realized, the nurturing of relationships will be crucial to the success of Indigenous child and family services. Existing Indigenous child and family service agencies have connections with service agencies both in and out of community, including within urban centres where so many Indigenous families now live. Strong and open working relationships between Indigenous governance and Indigenous child and family services leads to strong programs and supports, and existing Indigenous child and family service agencies have experience negotiating this relationship, as well as with navigating the complicated intersections with provincial and federal levels of government. Lastly, and most importantly, existing Indigenous agencies hold relationships with families. Changes in child and family legislation create risks for Indigenous families, and strong pre-existing relationships with Indigenous service providers mean risks can be mitigated through open communication and culturally rooted practice.

The existing delegated Indigenous Child and Family Service Agencies were only ever meant to be a step in the journey toward fully realized self-governance in the area of Indigenous child and family services. This step has dragged on much further than anticipated, yet during this time, Indigenous child and family service workers have worked within hostile and restrictive environments to care for Indigenous children, youth and families. Indigenous child and family service workers have waited for a time when their work can be done in a manner that is consistent with the cultural values and practices of the Indigenous communities they work within.