Resumption of Indigenous Jurisdiction over Children and Families
The historical timeline illustrates a clear and repeating pattern over the last 50 years: Indigenous communities and leaders work together to develop and articulate their own solutions and call for the resumption of jurisdiction over their children and families so they can implement those solutions; governments make promises and sign MOUs; then governments break their promises or offer a greatly diminished version of the original promise; then Indigenous communities and leaders regroup and start again.
Timeline for BC
Proclamation of the Indian Act, giving the federal government control over most aspects of Indigenous peoples’ lives.
An Indian Act amendment makes school attendance mandatory.
An Indian Act amendment gives provinces the power to enforce their child welfare laws on-reserve, triggering the Sixties Scoop.
The Indian Homemakers Association of BC passes a resolution calling upon the federal government to recognize Indigenous jurisdiction regarding children and families
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) passes a resolution identifying the removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities an “act of genocide” and calling for an Indian Child Service Act for First Nations governments to implement for their children.
Spallumcheen Indian Band drafts “A Bylaw for the Care of Our Indian Children: By-law #3-1980” recognizing the Band’s authority over all Spallumcheen children, living both on and off reserve. The by-law is eventually recognized by both Canada and BC.
The Indian Child Welfare Caravan travels across BC raising public awareness and support for the recognition of Indigenous jurisdiction over children and families.
The UBCIC passes a resolution calling on the provincial government to: stop apprehending First Nations children; return apprehended children to their respective communities; and recognize Indigenous jurisdiction over children and families.
The Constitution Act is passed, entrenching Aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada’s Constitution.
The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council creates BC’s first Delegated Aboriginal Agency, an interim measure to create space for the delivery of culturally appropriate child & family services while Nations work toward the resumption of jurisdiction over their children and families.
Canada implements the First Nations Child and Family Services policy, locking Delegated Aboriginal Agencies into a national funding formula (Directive 20-1) and forcing them to adhere to provincial standards for child welfare practice.
BC’s new provincial government commits to child welfare reform.
Lavina White and Eva Jacobs produce “Liberating our Children—Liberating our Nation” based on extensive community consultations. The report calls on the government to go beyond child welfare reform and to recognize Indigenous jurisdiction regarding children and families.
The minister responsible for child and family services announces that the ministry will undergo a fundamental shift in values, from a child-centred to a family-centred system.
UBCIC and BC sign a memorandum of understanding recognizing that children and families fall within the scope of First Nations’ inherent right of self-determination and agreeing that the province will withdraw from the field as First Nations assume jurisdiction over their children and families.
First Nations social workers create the Caring for First Nations Children Society to provide delegation training for DAA staff and to support First Nations communities working to reclaim jurisdiction over their children and families.
1991-1995 – Seven additional Delegated Aboriginal Agencies are created in BC.
BC provincial policy shifts away from recognizing and facilitating the resumption of jurisdiction of Indigenous Nations and toward a focus on delegating to agencies the authority held by the province.
BC proclaims the “Child, Family and Community Service Act”, which disregards the promised shift toward prevention and family support services. The “Act” omits any mention of Métis children and families, perpetuating further disappearance of Métis children into the child welfare system.
The Métis Commission is established to halt the disappearance of Métis children into the child welfare system, and becomes the designated representative for Métis children, youth and families within the BC child welfare system.
A joint review by the Assembly of First Nations and Canada concludes that funding under Directive 20-1 is insufficient and First Nations children are being taken into care as a result.
The BC government announces its intention to create five regional child welfare authorities. First Nations, Métis and urban Indigenous leaders united their voices and produced the “Tsawwassen Accord” articulating their opposition to blended child welfare authorities and recommending the development of regional Aboriginal authorities.
Indigenous leaders and BC sign a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to an Indigenous community-driven process for creating regional Aboriginal child welfare authorities.
BC cuts funding for the development of regional Aboriginal authorities
After six years of failure to address the insufficiency of Directive 20-1, Cindy Blackstock and the Assembly of First Nations file a human rights complaint again Canada.
The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) convenes the First Nations Chiefs’ Indigenous Child at the Centre Forum and creates the Child at the Centre Action Plan.
The FNLC and BC sign the “Recognition and Reconciliation Protocol on First Nations Children, Youth and Families”, committing BC to support First Nations in resuming jurisdiction over their children and families.
The FNLC establishes the First Nations Child and Family Wellness Council to implement the Child at the Centre Action Plan and BC begins funding community-driven child and family initiatives under the Indigenous Approaches program.
The BC Representative for Children and Youth releases a report critical of the Indigenous Approaches program. BC cuts funding for the Indigenous Approaches program and the First Nations Child and Family Wellness Council.
The FNLC creates “An Action Framework: Reconciliation, Self-Determination, and Self-Government for Indigenous Children, Families and Nations in BC” which calls for the resumption of jurisdiction over children and families by Indigenous nations.
BC releases a special advisor’s report, “Indigenous Resilience, Connectedness and Reunification—from Root Causes to Root Solutions”, calling for immediate recognition of Indigenous jurisdiction over children and families, and recommending that Indigenous communities leverage the experience and expertise accumulated within Delegated Aboriginal Agencies as they move toward resumption of jurisdiction.
The CHRT rules that Canada has racially discriminated against First Nations children by underfunding child and family services (under Directive 20-1) delivered by Delegated Aboriginal Agencies and making it difficult to impossible for agencies to deliver culturally appropriate services that meet provincial child welfare standards.
The BC Representative for Children and Youth releases a report on “Delegated Aboriginal Agencies: How Resourcing Affects Service Delivery” which concludes that underfunding undermines the capacity of DAAs to deliver services to Indigenous children and families, and contributes to the gross over-representation of Indigenous children in care.
2016-2020 The CHRT issues multiple orders to ensure compliance with the 2016 ruling.
“An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families” comes into effect, providing a pathway for the resumption of Indigenous jurisdiction over children and families.
After five decades of unrelenting effort, Indigenous communities and leaders have finally achieved a real opportunity to reclaim the jurisdiction over their children and families which is their inherent right. An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families provides an opening for Indigenous communities to take charge of their own child and family services—to occupy the space under their own laws while the province vacates the field. For Indigenous communities, this is just the beginning: the beginning of imagining, planning, (re)creating, and managing their own approaches, systems and practices.
The delegation model was always intended as an interim measure on the pathway to resumption of full jurisdiction. Over the last 35 years, DAAs have accumulated extensive experience and expertise in meeting community-based challenges with community-based solutions and in delivering culturally appropriate child and family services. Communities can build on that experience and expertise in creating their own child and family laws and practices.