STC pledges to bring children back to their communities
- NC Raine | February 19, 2020
Chief Mark Arcand and the Saskatoon Tribal Council’s (STC) priority for this year is clear: “In 2020, the focus is on helping people.”
“We want to better the overall livelihood of all people,” said Arcand.
STC’s top priority this year is child and family services. On January 1, Bill C-92 was implemented, which allows Indigenous governing entities to develop their own child welfare laws or enter agreements with the federal or provincial government.
The bill was conceived as a step towards lowering Indigenous youth in the child-welfare system, but does not oblige the federal government to fund the transition or assist First Nations in drafting legislation. The bill received public criticism from both Arcand and FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron.
“Our priority is Bill C-92 and getting our children back home to their communities,” said Arcand.
To date, STC has 38 youth coming home to their communities, with potentially another 94 youth that STC would like to see out of the province’s care and back with their families.
“We could have 100 kids out of care by March, and that’s the goal – to get as many kids as we can home. We want zero kids in care. We want kids back at home, back to their identities,” said Arcand.
“The second piece is getting full jurisdiction to our First Nations communities. Our goal is to work with the province to help us build capacity so our communities can have the authority lie with chief and council to be in charge of their communities – to where it always should’ve been.”
Also high on STC’s agenda will be continuing to work with those incarcerated, giving special attention to youth. In Saskatchewan, 98 percent of females and 92 percent of males in the youth incarceration system are Indigenous – a statistic that Arcand is adamant on lowering.
“That’s totally unacceptable,” said Arcand. “Whether individuals are in a correctional facility or halfway house, we want to continue to work with them while they’re inside, providing them with some education, some potential employment, so they can go back to work and their families.”
Land-based education to bring families closer to culture, language, and identity will be another key focus in 2020, he said.
Finally, STC would like to see meaningful progress in reconciliation in the province. In late October, STC signed a formal agreement with the City of Saskatoon to meet goals over the next five years. Arcand wants to ensure that in 2020, there is action behind the talk.
“I want to enact all these agreements. They’re not just for show. Because to be honest, I see a lot of people talking about reconciliation but are they really doing something different?” he said.
“I want to see more First Nations people being employed, I want to see more people educated and working in good professions, and I want to limit the amount of people incarcerated. We can be a leader in 2020 in the city, province, and country in making a difference in peoples’ lives.”