Northern Ont. First Nations taking back child welfare jurisdiction
First Nations between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury are looking to take jurisdiction back from the Ontario government when it comes to the child welfare system.
North Shore Tribal Council First Nations are discussing the implementation of the Binoojii Adziwin Inakonigewin project, an initiative that looks to see First Nations create their own child well-being laws, which would, in turn, be governed by the First Nations directly.
Chief Dean Sayers of the Batchewana First Nation said the current system's parameters, as designed by the provincial government, are too restrictive on Indigenous culture and teachings.
"That kind of foundations are absent in the current models that are being promoted by the Crown, so we really see a lot of value of Indigenous worldview in how we look after our children," Sayers said.
The creation of this initiative really started with the creation of Nogdawindamin Family and Community services, he said, when First Nations chiefs were tired of the treatment their people were receiving with agencies such as the Children's Aid Society.
By advancing these child well-being laws, Nogdawindamin would answer to First Nations directly, rather than the province.
"We were dependant upon the provincial system, essentially to provide protection services," said Chief Brent Bissaillion, of Serpent River First Nation. "This in turn sometimes judges our own people, and what we need to do is take that back."
Bissaillion has been pushing to see the initiative through, as a means to not only restore power for the First Nations but to also help eliminate systemic discrimination.
"When we establish the Anishinabe law, basically we're looking to develop also a dispute resolution system so that we can keep them out of provincial courts," he added.
Discussions with the province have been opened and are proceeding positively, according to Sayers.
Implementation of the laws is expected in year two of the North Shore's five-year plan.