Roy Fiddler, Muskrat Dam Education Director, and Doug Beardy, IFNA Education Coordinator, are in the middle of a two day, 90 kilometre walk on the winter road from Bearskin Lake to Muskrat Dam.
They are raising funds for the 18th Annual Gospel Jamboree to be held in Muskrat Dam on March 2, 3 and 4, 2007.
They started walking yesterday morning at 9 am. They walked for 10 hours covering a total of 50 km before breaking for the day. They started again this morning to complete their walk. Roy's wife, Shirley is providing transportation support for the walkers.
This afternoon, the students at Samson Beardy Memorial School will join Roy and Doug to complete their walk as they come into Muskrat Dam.
Roy and Doug raised over $1,000 before leaving Muskrat Dam on Wednesday evening from local supporters before even the start of their walk.
Anyone interested in donating to this event can do so by calling the school at 807-471-2524 or either radio stations in Bearskin Lake and Muskrat Dam.
AFN press release ...
Canadian Human Rights Complaint on First Nations Child Welfare Filed Today by Assembly of First Nations and First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada
OTTAWA, Feb. 23 - Today, the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada formally filed a complaint today with the Canadian Human Rights Commission regarding lack of funding for First Nations child welfare.
"There are more than 27,000 First Nations children in state care. This is a national disgrace that requires the immediate and serious attention of all governments to resolve," said National Chief Phil Fontaine. "Rational appeals to successive federal governments have been ignored. After years of research that confirm the growing numbers of our children in care, as well as the potential solutions to this crisis, we have no choice but to appeal to the Canadian Human Rights Commission."
"I have said all along that I would rather negotiate than litigate," added the National Chief. "But we have the right to determine what is best for the future of our children. Our children must have an equal opportunity to grow-up with their families, in their communities, and in their culture. No First Nation child should have to forgo this opportunity as a result of poverty or an inability to access basic services."
"First Nations leadership have been forced into the position of launching this formal complaint against the federal government", said Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Lawrence Joseph. "It has become clear to our leadership that governments do not respond to demonstrated, real and growing needs in First Nations child welfare."
"We are not interested in conflict, we are seeking a just, equitable, and proactive resolution on behalf of our First Nations children and families," added Chief Joseph.
"According to the Department of Indian Affairs own website, 'fundamental change in the funding approach of First Nations Child and Family Services Agencies to child welfare is required in order to reverse the growth rate of children coming into care, and in order for the agencies to meet their mandated responsibilities'," noted Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. "We could not agree more. We have worked diligently with the AFN, First Nations child and family service agencies, and Indian Affairs to develop a detailed, evidence based solution to the problem."
"The federal government still has not acted on the recommendations," added Ms. Blackstock. "We can no longer stand still as the safety and well being of First Nations children depends on implementing this solution so we are proud to stand with the Assembly of First Nations in filing this human rights complaint."
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.
For further information: Bryan Hendry, A/Director of Communications, (613) 241-6789 ext. 229, cell, (613) 293-6106, email@example.com;. Nancy Pine, Communications Advisor - Office of the National Chief, (613) 241-6789 ext 243, (613) 298-6382, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In preparation for today's filing of a Canadian Human Rights Complaint on Discriminatory Treatment Against First Nations Child Welfare Agencies by the Assembly of First Nations National Chief, and First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, a set of commonly asked questions and answers are being made available to clarify the reality of the challenges and opportunities facing Canadian society today.
The INAC funded research is now in place in the form of the 2005 Wen:de reports that are available on line at www.fncaringsociety.com ... THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW!
First Nations Child and Family Services - Questions and Answers
1. What is the First Nation child welfare issue all about?
Child welfare is about working with First Nation families to ensure the safety and well being of their children. In an ideal scenario, concerns about a child’s welfare are resolved by providing services to help the family, but in some cases these services are not enough to ensure the child’s safety and the child is removed and placed with extended family or in foster care.
One of the challenges for First Nations children on reserve is that the federal government does not fund First Nations child and family service agencies to provide prevention or support services to families to enable them to keep their children safely in the family home. The absence of these services is a major reason why so many First Nation children are in care.
Another significant factor is that First Nation Child Welfare agencies receive approximately 22% less funding than provincial agencies.
2. What is meant by an “over representation” of First Nation Children in care?
The unfortunate reality is that 1 out of 10 First Nations children are placed in care compared to 1 out of every 200 non-First Nation children in Canada.
3. What does it mean when 1 out of every 10 First Nation children are in care?
It means that too many First Nation children are in care. It is estimated that there are as many as 27,000 First Nation children in care today. This figure includes children in First Nation agencies and provincial agencies both on and off-reserve. This number is three times the number of children that were in Residential Schools at the height of their operation.
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Minister Jim Prentice, alleges that there are only 9,000 First Nations children in care. This figure of 9,000 refers to First Nations children in the care of First Nations agencies only, and not First Nation children in care throughout provincial agencies. Further, the Minister recognizes there has been a 65% increase of First Nation children in care since 1996.
The AFN believes that all First Nations children should be safe and well cared for, and in some cases that means placement in foster care. However, the gap in funding to service First Nation agencies is a critical issue. It is common for foster families funded through First Nation agencies to be subsidized at a much lower rate than their provincial counterparts, making the overall shortage of qualified foster families an even bigger challenge.
4. Why are so many children coming into care?
The Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS): Final Report (2005) reports that the primary reason why First Nations children come into care is “neglect”. The root causes of neglect are directly linked with abject degrees of poverty, poor housing conditions and high instances of alcohol and substance abuse. Without considerable family supports and community program investments, parents do not have the supports they need to address family challenges and to prevent their children from being placed in care.
The AFN agrees that systemic reform must occur, and that means addressing inequality in First Nations child welfare funding while also focusing on the needs and strengths of First Nation children and their families, as opposed to focusing solely on assessing risks.
5. What is the Alberta Response model?
The Alberta response model is also referred to as a “differential model”. This model utilizes a range of community partners (all levels of government, the voluntary sector, businesses and non-profit organizations) which are mobilized to support children and their families. Children require less urgent, less disruptive interventions, and protection placements are shifted into an alternative track where they access a well coordinated short and long term range of services tailored to meet their specific needs. One challenge is that in order to be successful, families must have access to family support services and as we described earlier this is just the type of service that the federal government under funds for First Nations children.
6. Does the AFN support Alberta First Nations in their efforts to secure investments in child welfare for Alberta?
Yes, the AFN supports INAC’s approach of recognizing the Alberta Response model in this region. However, the AFN would be seeking national authorities to refocus the First Nation child welfare program from intervention to protection and emphasize the importance of providing incentives in other provinces to build the required conditions for prevention services to be successfully implemented.
7. Is there a way to ensure that children do not come into care due to jurisdictional disputes?
Yes, a “child first” principle to resolving jurisdictional disputes has been proposed called Jordan’s Principle, in memory of a child who stayed in hospital unnecessarily for over two years while governments tried to resolve a jurisdictional dispute regarding the services he needed for home care. What this means is that when a jurisdictional dispute arises between two levels of government regarding who will pay for the services provided to a Status Indian child, and those services are otherwise available to other Canadian children, the government of first contact must pay for the service and then resolve the jurisdictional dispute later. This means that children come first and the jurisdictional dispute can still be sorted out.
This child first principle would cost government nothing and yet has still NOT been implemented.
8. What is the difference in funding levels between First Nation agencies and provincial agencies?
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Child and Family Services Program provides 22% less funding per child to First Nation agencies than is received by provincial agencies. This fiscal imbalance and discriminatory treatment of First Nations child welfare agencies is a critical issue. The AFN agrees resources in child welfare alone are NOT enough. Resources for overall community development to address poverty and neglect – the root causes of children being taken into care – are needed.
9. Is there an evidence based solution to redress the funding situation that demonstrates to the federal government where the money will be spent and why?
Yes, the 2005 Wen:de series of reports are based on national research that was funded by INAC and was generated by third party AND joint INAC-AFN collaborative studies. The reports not only identify some of the challenges in the current federal child welfare funding formula, but they also present solutions that are supported by over 600 pages of evidence compiled by leading researchers in Canada.
10. How much would it cost for the federal government to fully implement the Wen:de recommendations for child welfare funding?
The Wen:de recommendations conservatively estimate $109 million is needed immediately to bring the First Nation agencies to the same level as provincial agencies. INAC has estimated $125 million but this figure includes the need for increased capacity within INAC itself.
11. Are there any benefits for the rest of Canadians if the Wen:de solution was implemented?
Yes, as the World Health Organization has found for every dollar government invests in prevention services it saves $5-7 dollars in costs in future services. Investing in children is one of the best investments society can make because it positions them to grow up to be healthy, content and contributing members of society.
12. It has been reported that this situation has existed for years, why has the AFN decided to consider a Human Rights Complaint now?
The AFN and First Nations have been working in partnership for about ten years to develop the evidentiary base to support these issues. Further, the federal government has been seeking this research prior to supporting any investments in this area. That work has now been completed and comes in the form of the 2005 Wen:de reports (available on line at www.fncaringsociety.com). Unfortunately, the federal government still has not acted on this report and the recommendations.
The reality is the funding inequality is directly linked to First Nations children being unnecessarily placed in foster care and First Nations can wait no longer to act. Therefore, the AFN Chiefs-In-Assembly by way of Resolution 7/2006 approved the submission of a joint complaint by the AFN and the First Nations Child Family Caring Society to the Canadian Human Rights Commission in July 2006 with the goal of forcing the government to do the right and just thing for the current and future generations of First Nations children.
13. Will the AFN get any financial benefit if the Wen:de recommendations are implemented?
No. There is no funding in the Wen:de recommendations targeted for the Assembly of First Nations – it is all targeted for First Nations child and family service agencies so that they can better serve First Nations children and families.
14. Didn’t the federal government announce a $25 million dollar/year increase in First Nations child welfare funding a couple of years ago?
Yes, however, INAC held back $16 million per year to off set their increasing maintenance budget costs and to address other internal cost pressures associated with a program audit and evaluation related to the child welfare program. The end result is that only $8 million was provided to First Nations child and family service agencies nationally and this fell far short of what is needed.
15. INAC Minister Prentice has stated that INAC is providing an 11% increase in funding for the First Nation child welfare program, how is this not enough?
Each First Nation child welfare agency has a budget which is comprised of two portions: maintenance and operations. The 11% increase that Minister Prentice refers to is the growth rate of the maintenance portion of the budget. The maintenance budget reflects the cost of children in care, the higher the cost, the more children there are in care. Interestingly, INAC will cover the costs of children in care regardless of the amount but they will provide minimal funding for children to be cared for safely in their own families.
Added to this is the fact that these resources have been taken from within existing INAC funding by reallocating funding from other essential INAC funded programs such as capital, housing and income assistance. For example, we have heard that some child welfare resources are being re-allocated and applied to emergency water measures in some regions.
The INAC operations portion of the budget directly impacts an agency’s ability to assess and protect children, and this has been capped at 2% for the past decade. There have been NO cost of living or population based increases beyond a 2% cap for the program overall since 1996. Program funding has decreased overall per child in the system. More importantly, this is also the portion of the budget that would allow for prevention services.
16. How many people are working nationally in the federal government on First Nations child welfare given the crisis facing First Nations children?
INAC has only two staff people overseeing the First Nations child welfare program. The AFN and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society provide First Nations child and family service agencies with policy support. Together these two organizations have five people working on First Nations child welfare with only one position funded with any support from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. In comparison, it would not be unusual for a provincial child welfare agency with similar numbers of First Nations children in care to routinely have up to 60-80 people working in similar positions.
17. Are there other child welfare experts and organizations that have independently commented on the inequality in First Nations child welfare?
Yes, the inequity in child welfare funding for First Nations children on reserve has been documented in several provincial government reviews such as the Baby Andy Inquest in Saskatchewan, the British Columbia Children’s Commissioner, the Children’s Advocate in Saskatchewan, the National Children’s Alliance, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and over 200 supporters of Jordan’s Principle (view list at www.fncaringsociety.com). The Government of Manitoba has issued a press release in partnership with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs supporting the AFN human rights action.
18. If provided with more funding what could First Nations agencies do that they can’t do now?
Prevention services for families and children. The most critical missing component is prevention, or the ability of the agencies to link families with support services that will ensure child safety and enable the family unit to remain intact whenever possible. It should be noted that investments in prevention will not realize its full potential if not accompanied by investing in core services such as information management and professional development.
Information Management. With many agencies still using pen and paper record keeping, increased resources would allow for computerization of information management to help with planning and evaluating services to ensure the programs offered to children and their families are effective.
Professional Development. Increased training and wage parity are two important issues. The low level of funding for staff in the current funding formula makes it more difficult for First Nations child and family service agencies to recruit and retain qualified personnel.
Research and Standards. First Nations child and family service agencies are committed to ensuring that the children and families receive the best services possible and this means being able to base service access on culturally based research and standards.
19. Are all First Nations child and family service agencies ready to move into providing prevention services?
Yes, all regions have determined how they would utilize additional prevention services funding in a way that families and children could get the most benefit. Years of under funding of First Nations child and family service agencies has had an impact on their services, but with additional funds they would be able to move more quickly to establish the infrastructure for a holistic and culturally based continuum of child and family services.