Manitoba aboriginal leaders sign deal to change system of taking children away

By on October 17, 2014

A young Shawl Dancer performs at the Grand River Champion of Champions Powwow  in Ohsweken, Ontario, Canada. wdeon /
A young Shawl Dancer performs at the Grand River Champion of Champions Powwow in Ohsweken, Ontario, Canada. wdeon /

WINNIPEG—Manitoba aboriginal leaders have signed an agreement aiming to change the system of apprehending children of aboriginal families in crisis by getting more First Nations communities involved.

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Grand Chief David Harper of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Grand Chief Terrence Nelson of the Southern Chiefs Organization and Manitoba Regional Chief Bill Traverse of the Assembly of First Nations signed the agreement Wednesday.

Nepinak says the chiefs would like to see a redirection of the approximately $6 billion expected to be spent by the provincial government in the next 10 years apprehending and holding aboriginal children in the current system.

He says it could be used to create care options within First Nations communities.

If children can’t be in their own homes, Nepinak says the safest place for them is in their own communities surrounded by their own traditions and the security of familiar faces.

Nepinak says the chiefs will be part of a leadership council meeting during the first week of November with Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross.

“We’ve said for a long time, sometimes it takes a community to raise a child and we’re being denied that opportunity for the community to help raise the child because children are being moved from our communities and into private homes that aren’t part of our collective,” Nepinak said.

He said the provincial government’s message is that it wants to work with the aboriginal leaders but that has not yet translated into action.

“We’re seeing an acceleration of children in care through that, a lot of tragic outcomes and consequences in a system that’s become self-contained and self-realizing in how it approaches the task of providing families with protective services and safety for children,” Nepinak said in an interview.

“What we’d like to see is a funding mechanism that actually provides real prevention, healing and pre-emptive services for the families instead of paying lip-service that’s there right now.”