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This article was published 12/6/2019 (390 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Southern Manitoba First Nations chiefs have opted to support Ottawa’s landmark child-welfare reform, rebuffing claims it would be worse than the status quo.
"It is not the role of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization to take the side of any one community over another," Grand Chief Jerry Daniels wrote in a statement.
On Tuesday, the southern chiefs opted to support Bill C-92, which aims to allow Indigenous groups to form agreements with Ottawa to take control of Child and Family Services agencies.
The legislation aims to address the massive disproportion of Indigenous children apprehended by CFS agencies, often for reasons related to poverty. Manitoba leads the country in both the number and rate of child apprehensions, 87 per cent of which involve Indigenous children.
At a daylong forum Tuesday, the chiefs voted to support the bill, over the objections of some of its communities, as well as a provincial umbrella organization.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has campaigned against Bill C-92 since it was tabled in February. AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas urged both the House and Senate not to pass the legislation, testifying it "will haunt us for generations."
The legislation compels Indigenous groups to make "reasonable efforts" to negotiate with their provinces for a year before Ottawa imposes rules against a province’s will.
However, the bill doesn’t define "reasonable efforts" — and Dumas said the Manitoba government has an "essentially non-existent" relationship with First Nations chiefs.
Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan had tried in vain to get the AMC on board. He believes a CFS act the AMC had drafted could be implemented through Bill C-92 — a claim Dumas rejects.
Daniels said the SCO isn’t trying to get between the two. "This is not about putting one act against another," he wrote.
Former Liberal minister Jane Philpott, who convened an emergency summit on CFS, said the bill intended to transform a heinous system with links to residential schools into a way of restoring Indigenous autonomy — especially when the Liberals shelved their plan to codify treaty rights.
In a recent interview, Philpott said First Nations in Manitoba are represented by overlapping organizations, some which legally represent communities and others that are political advocacy organizations.
"We have a lot of work to do in this country still, in terms of really understanding what co-development of legislation or policy looks like, in terms of how you actually make sure that you’ve heard the right voices."
Bill C-92 is expected to become law this month, with the Senate finishing its amendment process Wednesday night.
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