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Provinces pose challenge to Indigenous child-welfare reform: Bellegarde

Last Updated Jul 7, 2020 at 12:45 pm EDT

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde speaks during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations says an outbreak of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan's far north is "alarming." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

National Chief Perry Bellegarde says provincial governments that want to cling to their jurisdiction over child welfare are the biggest barrier to implementing new legislation giving Indigenous communities control over their children’s well-being.

Bellegarde and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller signed an agreement in Ottawa this morning that is the next step forward in implementing Bill C-92.

The bill passed in the last Parliament and took effect Jan. 1, setting national standards for Indigenous jurisdiction over child and family services.

However several provinces are concerned over the impact on their own roles in child-welfare programs, and Quebec is challenging the constitutionality of the bill in court.

The agreement signed today is a guide for discussions between Ottawa and Indigenous governments as each community moves to assert its control of child welfare for its own kids, recognizing Indigenous laws and customs.

Bellegarde says those discussions must also happen with provincial governments, which he pegged as one of the biggest barriers to reducing the number of Indigenous children in foster care in Canada.