- On November 30, 2018 AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde along with Indigenous Services Canada Minister Jane Philpott and leaders of the Inuit Tapariit Kanatami and Métis Nation announced the intention to co-develop legislation that will benefit First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and families.
- The legislation will respect existing processes, recognize the distinctions between First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and fully respect First Nations inherent and Treaty rights and jurisdiction.
On November 30, I stood with Indigenous Services Canada Minister Jane Philpott, Inuit Tapariit Kanatami President Natan Obed and Métis Nation President Clément Chartier to announce our shared intention to co-develop legislation that will respect First Nations rights, cultures and family structures and affirm the inherent jurisdiction of First Nations to care for our children.
Our children are sacred. They are the focus and center of our Nations and they deserve every opportunity to fulfil their dreams and succeed.
The work toward new co-developed federal legislation is a response to years of pressure for action and reform. Decades of underfunding and misguided approaches have harmed our children and families. Outdated laws and policies have created a situation where our children are grossly over-represented in the child welfare system. Legislation is an important piece of more comprehensive reform across the entire system.
The goal is to apply First Nations law, policies and values with First Nations designing, building and implementing systems that work for their children and families. The aim is to support First Nations in building their systems through their own governance and laws, to keep the circle of community strong, and to protect our children.
These efforts are based on our right to care for our children. A co-development approach to legislation puts First Nations at the decision-making table to lead reforms based on our rights, our teachings and innovative approaches that work for our families.
New legislation must focus on prevention rather than apprehension. It must respect First Nations jurisdiction, inherent rights and our rights recognized domestically and in international law, including those articulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Legislation must be consistent with the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
New legislation will not infringe on any existing agreements or impede existing processes that First Nations are working on, including recent agreements in regions across the country. And the overall approach must recognize the unique and distinct needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
We are committed to working together as quickly as possible for our children. There is much work we can draw on from many successful First Nations child welfare systems. We will build on existing efforts and will continue to collaborate and seek direction.
This is truly a new chapter for our children and families – one where we write the laws, policies and values that apply to our children regardless of where they reside. A collaborative effort led by First Nations is the right way to go and the right way to protect our rights and our children.
You will hear more about this work at our upcoming AFN Special Chiefs Assembly December 4 – 6 and we will keep you involved and informed throughout this work.
Like everything we do, this is for our children and our future.