British Columbia is changing provincial legislation to remove barriers for Indigenous Peoples exercising jurisdiction over child and family services, becoming the first province in Canada to expressly recognize this inherent right within provincial legislation.
“This is a pivotal shift toward real and meaningful change that respects Indigenous rights and improves services and supports for Indigenous children, youth and families,” said Premier John Horgan. “B.C. was the first province to bring the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into provincial law and it’s fulfilling to see how that bold action continues to create reforms that support reconciliation and make life better for Indigenous communities.”
The amendments, the largest in more than 25 years, will respect the inherent rights of Indigenous communities to provide their own child and family services, and to keep Indigenous children safely connected to their cultures and their communities.
“The colonial era of the Province controlling child welfare must come to an end — and this legislation cannot be passed soon enough,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “This legislation holds the promise of finally affirming the inherent rights of First Nations to ensure our children are with their families, communities and people. It brings me incredible joy to think about this change in my lifetime, and for my grandchildren and great grandchildren. As Indigenous Peoples, we have the right to exercise self-determination over our children and we are glad this is finally being recognized through law.”
The changes will also help to further address and reduce the disproportionate number of Indigenous children in provincial care.
“We know that the current child-welfare system is a continuation of harmful colonial practices, and the solution is to re-assert jurisdiction over their children, youth and families in accordance with their customs, traditions and Indigenous laws,” said Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development. “These amendments are a significant step in the creation of an approach that properly respects the inherent rights and legal orders of Indigenous Peoples and reshapes the provincial laws to focus on the best interests of Indigenous children.”
The modernized legislation will support Indigenous Peoples to re-establish, develop and exercise child-welfare laws for their community members and to recreate their own models for child and family service delivery, including family support, child protection and adoption services. Upholding jurisdiction will have an unparalleled positive impact on Indigenous children, youth and families, respecting and facilitating connections to communities, and resulting in healthier lifelong outcomes.
The amendments were developed in consultation and co-operation with Indigenous rightsholders, Modern Treaty Nations, Indigenous Governing Bodies (IGBs), Métis Nation BC and Indigenous partners. This is an important step in meeting government’s commitments under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and achieving the goals in the Declaration Act Action Plan, Theme 1: Self Determination and Inherent Right of Self Government.
The proposed amendments will:
- recognize that the Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA) must be administered and interpreted in accordance with Indigenous communities’ inherent right of self-government with respect to child and family services;
- enable IGBs to assume jurisdiction over child-welfare services provided to an Indigenous child in accordance with Indigenous laws;
- strengthen collaboration and enable consent-based decision making with Indigenous communities on adoption placements for Indigenous children;
- ensure that both Treaty First Nations and non-Treaty First Nations have opportunities to exercise jurisdiction in these areas;
- enable information sharing between the Province and IGBs to help IGBs plan for and exercise jurisdiction;
- establish a new Indigenous child-welfare director position in the Ministry of Children and Family Development to provide guidance and advice to CFCSA directors and their delegates in navigating a multi-jurisdictional child and family services model; and
- enable joint and consent-based agreements to be made in accordance with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act for relevant powers under the Adoption Act and the CFCSA.
Read the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2018/11/UNDRIP_E_web.pdf
Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/indigenous-people/aboriginal-peoples-documents/calls_to_action_english2.pdf
Read the federal act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families:
Learn about Modern Treaty Nations in B.C.: https://moderntreatyalliancebc.ca/
For information on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and to download a copy of the action plan, visit: https://declaration.gov.bc.ca
Two backgrounders follow.