Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/3/2009 (4154 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The House of Commons public accounts committee told Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) that although the department is negotiating new agreements with each province, there is no reason not to immediately improve the formula for everyone,
The formula, which is more than two decades old, has been found to shortchange aboriginal kids. Even INAC officials have admitted it is not working.
"The committee completely fails to understand why the old funding formula is still in place," reads a report from the committee tabled in Ottawa Tuesday.
Public accounts committee chairman Shawn Murphy, a Liberal MP from Prince Edward Island, said it is more than disappointing that INAC has done little to respond to recommendations to improve aboriginal child welfare services, made last spring by federal auditor general Sheila Fraser.
"It is not getting the attention it deserves," said Murphy, adding he hopes the committee's report will "light a fire under everyone's rear end."
The formula in question has been criticized repeatedly, including by Fraser, who last May said it didn't take into account how many children actually need help or what services they need. Fraser also said it left underfunded child welfare agencies with little choice but to place kids in care because that is the only time Ottawa funds child welfare on par with provincial funding for off-reserve kids.
More than 8,300 aboriginal kids from reserves were in care when the audit was conducted -- more than eight times the number of children in care who don't live on reserves.
Although child welfare is a provincial responsibility, Ottawa is responsible for funding services to kids living on reserves.
Ottawa's response has been that it is negotiating new funding agreements with the provinces to mimic a model rolled out in Alberta a few years ago that focuses on preventing family breakdowns before children have to be apprehended.
Ottawa has agreements in place with three provinces -- Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia -- and hopes to have them all finished by 2012. Manitoba is still negotiating the terms, and hopes it will have a deal this spring. Some question whether Ottawa has set aside enough money to meet its obligations. But the public accounts committee said there is no reason Ottawa can't ensure all children are given a better funding arrangement immediately, even while the new agreements are being developed.
It also wants INAC to produce a detailed action plan to respond to all of Fraser's recommendations by the end of April, and to conduct a detailed analysis of on- and off-reserve child welfare funding by the end of the year.
An INAC spokeswoman said the department had no response.
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.