STC, Canada agreement provides dollars to keep First Nations children in their communities
- Andrea Ledding | September 13, 2018
Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) member nations have all signed a nation-to-nation agreement with Minister Jane Philpott of Indigenous Service Canada and the Government of Canada on child and family services which will see $50 million over 5 years in the Community Well-Being and Jurisdictional Initiative new funding stream, and health transformation which will see $6.2 million over the next 3 years.
“ investment is about our kids,” said STC Tribal Chief Mark Arcand. “Every dollar helps build capacity for second-level services, every dollar is going where it’s needed directly in the communities.”
Chiefs Austin Bear of Muskoday, Darcy Bear of Whitecap Dakota, Chris Sutherland of One Arrow, Daryl Watson of Mistawasis, Greg Scott of Kinistin Saulteaux, Kelly Wolfe of Muskeg Lake, and Acting Chief Myron Neapetung representing Chief John Machiskinic of Yellow Quill all signed as nation-to-nation recipients of the direct funding, with support from STC Tribal Chief Arcand.
“This signing agreement is for the communities,” said Arcand. “It comes from the chiefs that are sitting here today, those are the rights-holders because it’s nation-to-nation...the relationship is with each of these communities, I’m just a support staff.”
He added that all the chiefs believe children are the most important thing in the world and are going to fight for them, calling the agreement a start to a marathon that must be run.
The new funding stream focuses on prevention activities to help families stay together in their communities whenever possible and ensure First Nations retain jurisdiction over child and family services to First Nation communities.
“I am privileged as a representative of Canada to work directly in the nation-to-nation relationship with the seven nations that comprise the Saskatoon Tribal Council,” said Minister Philpott. “Grand Chief Willie Littlechild said that ‘children are a sacred bundle’...we’re gathered here today thinking about children.”
She said the $6.2 million would begin to address health inequities that exist, particularly child mortality, and lead to overall improvement in delivering health priorities identified by the STC member nations. She stressed the importance of self-determination.
Philpott commended the STC and their member nations for developing a proposal on a child well-being system that proactively helps children and youth at risk, developing preventative services and programs based on the priorities of communities, which the federal government could then fund. She noted that the current state of the child welfare system in this country is a humanitarian crisis.
“In this province we know that approximately 80% of the children in care are Indigenous and are being taken from their family. This is unacceptable, we cannot allow it to go on,” said Philpott, mentioning an emergency meeting in January that has created a six-point plan of action. “Affirming the full jurisdiction of First Nations over child and family services, that was never given away.”
She added that many social determinants need to be addressed, the basic necessities of life, citing the TRC Call to Action 18 that points out that current negative health outcomes are the result of past and present government actions and policies. She called the letter of understanding a renewed relationship based on the affirmation and recognition of rights in a nation-to-nation to relationship in partnership and respect.
“We’re working with communities all across the country,” said Philpott. “We look forward to opportunities to work with other First Nations and certainly they know how to reach out to us and we’re looking to feedback from all communities to work together in this nation-to-nation way.”
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was present and acknowledged, and gave a private interview to EFN.
“This is a very positive start for children in the Saskatoon Tribal Council Bands, being able to do prevention and also being able to try and reconnect with at least those 250 kids that are in care and provide supports, that is so important,” said Turpel-Lafond.
She noted that Saskatchewan has massive challenges so she was particularly proud of the work of the Tribal Council and the Chiefs. “Having been working with them over the last two months in particular intensely, I’ve really been able to bear witness to the work they’re doing with their children and families, not only their personal stories but their commitment and I think that makes this work really meaningful.”
She is excited about where this could potentially go, because she firmly believes Saskatchewan needs a better and different system. Arcand agreed.
“Any federal or provincial funding that’s going to agencies or organizations does not have a direct impact on First Nations children in our communities— it has to go directly into communities,” said Arcand, urging other First Nations to follow the same path. “That’s what we’re doing in this agreement. That’s the big impact that has to be recognized. The direct community, they’re the rights-holder.”