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Legislative changes will increase involvement of Indigenous communities in child welfare

If approved by the legislature, key proposed changes to the Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA) will increase involvement of Indigenous communities in child-welfare decisions by:

  • Giving ministry the authority to make agreements with an Indigenous child’s parents and community to allow for greater involvement in planning for the child (Sections 5, 6, 7, 8, 12.2);
  • Allowing the ministry to withdraw from proceedings if the parent has made an agreement with an Indigenous community that the ministry considers adequate to protect the child ( Sections 33 and 48);
  • Requiring the ministry to give notification of all CFCSA proceedings to an Indigenous community regarding their children when there are extensions to temporary custody order(Sections 44);
  • Requiring the ministry to provide a copy of a continuing custody order for a child to the child’s Indigenous community, including when the order is cancelled (Section 54).  
  • For an Indigenous child under a continuing custody order, requiring the ministry to make reasonable efforts to involve, at least on an annual basis, a child’s Indigenous community regarding planning for the child (new Section 50.01);
  • Expanding and clarifying the grounds under which the ministry can disclose information, without consent, to an Indigenous community (Section 79).
  • Giving ministry the authority to make agreements with communities regarding information-sharing, involvement in child protection responses, plans of care, placement decisions and plans of independence for Indigenous youth (new Section 92.1); and
  • Giving the ministry the authority to make agreements with communities to refer child-protection reports to those communities who have child protection laws (new Section 92.1);

Other proposed changes:

  • The term “Aboriginal” will be replaced by the term “Indigenous” to include children and families who identify as being First Nations, Inuit or Métis.
  • A number of proposed changes to the definitions, principles and rights section of the CFCSA will clarify and recognize:
    • the shared responsibility of Indigenous families and Indigenous communities in caring for their children (Guiding principles, Section 2);
    • the impact of residential schools (Service delivery principles, Section 3); and
    • the definition of the "best interest of a child test" to include the importance of a child belonging to, learning about and practicing their Indigenous traditions, customs and language. The courts and the ministry are required to apply this test when making decisions about the child. (Sections 4 and 70)

The proposed bill is available online: www.bclaws.ca