Manitoba First Nations Worried About Changes to Child-Welfare System

Cora Morgan, Manitoba First Nations family advocate,

There are concerns more Indigenous children will be permanently taken from their homes

Some Manitoba First Nations say they are worried some of the reforms planned for the province’s troubled child-welfare system could worsen the problem of having Aboriginal children raised in non-Indigenous homes.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says government plans to expand subsidies to include people seeking permanent guardianship of foster children will only make it faster and easier for kids to be taken from their parents forever.

“This is putting children at risk of being in non-Indigenous homes permanently,” said Cora Morgan, the assembly’s First Nations family advocate.

“When probably close to 90 per cent of our children are placed in non-Indigenous homes, and they’re not having access to culturally appropriate services or meaningful connections to culture and identity, then I have trouble with that.”

Indigenous people make up 17 per cent of Manitoba’s population, but almost 90 per cent of the 10,700 children in government care are Aboriginal.

System encourages taking children

First Nations leaders have long said the system is set up to encourage the seizure of children, because agencies are paid partly based on how many kids they care for.

The Progressive Conservative government, elected in 2016, has promised reforms but has yet to release details.

Families Minister Scott Fielding said legislation will be introduced soon to offer the same kind of subsidies foster parents have to people who seek permanent guardianship. The aim is to give kids a more stable environment rather than have them bouncing between temporary foster homes.

Morgan is worried the subsidies will encourage the current majority of non-Indigenous foster parents to seek permanent care of their charges. Fielding said his goal is to entice more family members who may not otherwise be able to afford to take care of the children.

This is putting children at risk of being in non-Indigenous homes permanently. – Cora Morgan

“We absolutely want more permanent guardianship, and the vast majority of people who take on permanent guardianship is a family member,” he said.

Not providing subsidies to permanent guardians in Manitoba means that “for a lot of people that may take on someone, that is a barrier to basically taking on a lifelong commitment.”

Fielding said courts are already required under law to favour family members in awarding permanent guardianship, so the expanded subsidies should make it more possible that children end up in the culture and language to which they are accustomed.

Fielding is also working on other changes first announced last month, including the launch of customary care, which allows First Nations children to stay in their community in the care of extended family and community leaders.

Preventative supports

The government has also promised to focus more on preventative supports for families to help them before they face apprehension.

A public inquiry report released in 2013 into the death of Phoenix Sinclair urged the government to address the fast-rising number of Indigenous children being taken from their parents.

Two years later, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report called on all governments to provide adequate resources to keep Indigenous families together and, when children are apprehended, ensure they are placed with families where they can maintain ties to their language and culture.Assembly of First Nations National chief says there is a gap in services and programs for Indigenous children on reserves that needs to be immediately addressed. Perry Bellegarde spoke after a demonstration on Parliament Hill.

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

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Government to Announce Payout of $800M to Indigenous Victims of ’60s Scoop

Government to announce payout of $800M to Indigenous victims of ’60s Scoop

Sources say the agreement includes a payout of between $25,000 and $50,000 for each claimant.

The federal government has agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to survivors of the ‘60s Scoop for the harm suffered by Indigenous children who were robbed of their cultural identities by being placed with non-native families, The Canadian Press has learned.

The national settlement with an estimated 20,000 victims, to be announced Friday by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, is aimed at resolving numerous related lawsuits, most notable among them a successful class action in Ontario.

Confidential details of the agreement include a payout of between $25,000 and $50,000 for each claimant, to a maximum of $750 million, sources said.

In addition, sources familiar with the deal said the government would set aside a further $50 million for a new Indigenous Healing Foundation, a key demand of the representative plaintiff in Ontario, Marcia Brown Martel.

Spokespeople for both Bennett and the plaintiffs would only confirm an announcement was pending Friday, but refused to elaborate.

“The (parties) have agreed to work towards a comprehensive resolution and discussions are in progress,” Bennett’s office said in a statement on Thursday. “As the negotiations are ongoing and confidential, we cannot provide further information at this time.”

The sources said the government has also agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees — estimated at about $75 million — separately, meaning the full amount of the settlement will go to the victims and the healing centre, to be established in the coming months, sources said.

The settlement would be worth at least $800 million and include Inuit victims, the sources said. The final amount is less than the $1.3 billion Brown Martel had sought for victims of the Ontario Scoop in which at-risk on-reserve Indigenous children were placed in non-Aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984 under terms of a federal-provincial agreement.

In an unprecedented class action begun in 2009, Brown Martel, chief of the Beaverhouse First Nation, maintained the government had been negligent in protecting her and about 16,000 other on-reserve children from the lasting harm they suffered from being alienated from their heritage.

Brown Martel, a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., was taken by child welfare officials and adopted by a non-native family. She later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

Her lawsuit, among some 17 others in Canada, is the only one to have been certified as a class action. Her suit sparked more than eight years of litigation in which the government fought tooth and nail against the claim.

However, in February, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba sided with Brown Martel, finding the government liable for the harm the ‘60s Scoop caused. Belobaba was firm in rejecting the government’s arguments that the 1960s were different times and that it had acted with good intentions in line with prevailing standards.

While Bennett said at the time she would not appeal the ruling and hoped for a negotiated settlement with all affected Indigenous children, federal lawyers appeared to be trying to get around Belobaba’s ruling. Among other things, they attempted to argue individuals would have to prove damages on a case-by-case basis.

A court hearing to determine damages in the Ontario action, scheduled for three days next week, has been scrapped in light of the negotiated resolution, which took place under Federal Court Judge Michel Shore.

One source said some aspects of the many claims might still have to be settled but called Friday’s announcement a “significant” step toward resolving the ‘60s Scoop issue — part of the Liberal government’s promise under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people a priority.

Jeffery Wilson, one of Brown Martel’s lawyers, has previously said the class action was the first anywhere to recognize the importance of a person’s cultural heritage and the individual harm caused when it is lost.

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

’60s Scoop Ruling: Canada Failed To Protect Indigenous Children, Judge Rules

Lead plaintiff Marcia Brown Martel (left) is seen outside court in Toronto on Dec. 1, 2016. (Photo: Colin Perkel/CP)

Lead plaintiff Marcia Brown Martel (left) is seen outside court in Toronto on Dec. 1, 2016. (Photo: Colin Perkel/CP)

The Canadian Press | Feb 14, 2017

Canada failed to take reasonable steps to prevent thousands of on-reserve children who were placed with non-native families from losing their indigenous heritage during the ’60s Scoop, an Ontario judge ruled Tuesday.

The ruling in the long-running and bitterly fought class action paves the way for an assessment of damages the government will now have to pay.

In siding with the plaintiffs, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found Canada had breached its “duty of care” to the children.

The lawsuit launched eight years ago sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 indigenous children in Ontario who claimed they were harmed by being placed in non-aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984 under terms of a federal-provincial agreement.

The plaintiffs argued — and Belobaba agreed — that Ottawa breached part of the agreement that required consultation with Indian bands about the child welfare program.

Belobaba was scathing in commenting on the government’s contention that consultation with the bands wouldn’t have made any difference to the children.

“This is an odd and, frankly, insulting submission,” Belobaba wrote. “Canada appears to be saying that even if the extension of child welfare services to their reserves had been fully explained to the Indian bands and, if each band had been genuinely consulted about their concerns in this regard, that no meaningful advice or ideas would have been forthcoming.”

Belobaba also took issue with the government’s argument that the 1960s were different times and that it acted with good intentions in line with prevailing standards. As a result, the government had tried to argue, it could not have known the harm that might have been done to the children.

“I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my heart.” — Marcia Brown Martel, lead plaintiff

“Canada’s submission misses the point,” Belobaba said. “The issue is not what was known in the 1960s about the harm of trans-racial adoption or the risk of abuse in the foster home.”

The lawsuit sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 indigenous children in Ontario who claimed they were harmed by being placed in non-aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984. (Photo: CP)

The lawsuit sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 indigenous children in Ontario who claimed they were harmed by being placed in non-aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984. (Photo: CP)

Instead, the justice said, there can be “no doubt” that what was well known even then was the importance to First Nations peoples of protecting and preserving their distinctive cultures and traditions, including their concept of the extended family.

The lead plaintiff in the Ontario action, Marcia Brown Martel, 53, is a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont. She was adopted by a non-aboriginal couple in 1972 at age nine and later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

“I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my heart,” Brown Martel said in a statement. “Our voices were finally heard and listened to. Our pain was acknowledged.”

The government did not immediately comment on the decision.

Belobaba said that while the 1965 agreement, strictly speaking, applied to the Indian bands and not the children, he hoped the government would not now try to make such a “formalistic argument” given the First Nations context.

The Liberal government indicated last week it was going to try to block Belobaba from releasing his ruling after Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced an intention to negotiate with ’60s Scoop survivors across the country. The government relented amid outrage by the plaintiffs and critics, who called the attempt to stop the ruling an unprecedented political interference.

Similar legal actions in several provinces other than Ontario are pending but none has been certified.

[SOURCE]

More Than Half Of The First Nations Kids On Reserves Live In Poverty

Photo: First Nations child caring society

Photo: First Nations child caring society

The Canadian Press – May 17, 2016

76% of Manitoba First Nations children on reserve live in poverty: study

Indigenous children in Canada are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than non-aboriginal kids, according to new findings released Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The study, which delves into poverty rates on reserves and in the territories as measured by income, documents the dire conditions being experienced by status First Nations children, including 60 per cent of those who live on reserves.

Poverty rates are highest for First Nations kids on reserves in Manitoba at 76 per cent and Saskatchewan at 69 per cent, the study found.

The rates of poverty on-reserve worsened between 2005 and 2010, the researchers found, citing long-standing barriers such as underfunded schools and child welfare services that stand in the way of kids achieving their full potential.

Senior economist David Macdonald, who co-authored the report, said the figures clearly show deplorable rates of child poverty on reserves in Canada.

“One of the interesting things is that despite the fact that we have seen strong economic growth in the 2000s in Alberta in particular, as well as Saskatchewan and Manitoba, we are just not seeing that filter down to the on-reserve level,” he said.

“We are to some degree seeing it trickle down to the off-reserve population … but we are just not seeing the benefits on reserve.”

In order to come up with its figures, the institute updated its findings from a previous report examining child poverty rates based on the 2006 census, using data collected during the 2011 National Household Survey.

“It is important to point out that Statistics Canada reports on poverty rates do not include people who live on a reserve or people living in the territories where roughly half of all Inuit people are located,” the report said.

“Because this data is excluded, official poverty rates in Canada are lower than they would be if these populations were counted. Poverty rates for indigenous people, especially status First Nations and Inuit, are reported to be much lower than a full count would indicate is truly the case.”

Study co-author Daniel Wilson said he is hopeful measuring and reporting on the problem will help to end “policy-making in a void of information.”

The study also contains immediate suggestions for a poverty reduction plan for reserves including calls to improve direct income support and bolster employment prospects.

“These first steps will not eliminate the enormous gap in circumstance between children in Canada but they may slow or reserve a worsening trend of increasing poverty among First Nations children on reserve,” the report said.

“If we are to restore some hope to communities suffering from a pandemic of adolescent suicide, it is one place to start.”

The Liberal budget tabled in March made substantial investments on housing, clean water and education for First Nations, the study noted, but the bulk of that money is not scheduled to be spent for a few years yet.

“It will take some time to tell whether these initiatives sufficiently combat chronic overcrowding in houses, boil water advisories and substandard schooling,” the report said.

“However, the investment signals a welcome change in approach to indigenous issues.”

[SOURCE]

Truth And Reconciliation Commission Final Report: By The Numbers

Inuit children stand outside a residential school in a photo released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission along with its final report. (Indian and Northern Affairs, Library and Archives Canada)

Inuit children stand outside a residential school in a photo released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission along with its final report. (Indian and Northern Affairs, Library and Archives Canada)

CBC News, Posted: Dec 14, 2015

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission releases its final report Tuesday on the history and legacy of Canada’s residential school system.

Here are some numbers and facts contained in the final report of the commission:

6,750 — Statements received by the Truth and Reconciliation from survivors of residential schools, members of their families and other individuals

150,000 — First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students who went to residential schools.

37,951 — Claims made for injuries resulting from physical and sexual abuse in residential schools.

30,939 — Claims resolved for sexual or serious physical abuse in residential schools by the end of 2014.

$2.69 — Compensation in billions for claims resolved by the end of 2014.

3,200 — Documented number of indigenous children who died in residential schools. Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the commission, estimates the number of deaths is much higher.

300 — Communities visited by the commission since 2008.

300 — Child-welfare agencies in Canada operating under provincial and territorial jurisdiction.

100 — The period, in years, studied by the inquiry into Canada’s residential school system.

80 — Residential schools in operation across the country in 1930.

7 — Number of languages in which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report will be published: English, French, Mi’kmaq, Ojibwa, Inuktitut, Cree and Dené.

Millions — Number of documents collected by the commission since 2008.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/truth-and-reconciliation-final-report-by-the-numbers-1.3362156?cmp=abfb