Understanding the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act (also known by its Bill number, C-92)
What is the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Child, Youth and Family Act?
The First Nations, Inuit and Métis Child, Youth and Family Services Act (C-92) recognizes that First Nations have the right to make their own laws regarding child and family services and to be in control of the services they provide.
It also identifies the principles that must be respected to protect the children of our communities: the best interests of the child, cultural continuity and substantive equality.
How was the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act passed?
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its Calls to Action. It identified the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in the child protection systems and the contribution of the child protection systems to the assimilation of Aboriginal peoples.
As a result of these observations, extensive consultation and collaboration with various Aboriginal jurisdictions led to the creation of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act, which officially came into effect in 2020.
What is the purpose of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act?
Eliminate the impact of residential schools and other government policies on Aboriginal people;
Reduce the number of Aboriginal children in child protection care;
To encourage the retention of children in their families of origin and communities and to prevent them from being placed in care due to poverty, health and housing issues;
Ensuring that children remain connected to their language, culture, community and territory;
On what principles will decisions be made regarding the protection and well-being of our children?
The principle of the best interests of the child
The best interests of the child test is a primary consideration in all decisions and actions taken in the child's situation. In the case of Aboriginal children, the best interests of the child include consideration of the child's need to maintain ties with his or her family, community and culture.
The principle of cultural continuity
This principle asserts that the child must have ongoing connections to family, community and culture. The transmission of Aboriginal language, culture, practices, customs, traditions, ceremonies and knowledge are all important elements of cultural continuity. It also implies that services for children must be provided in ways that do not contribute to the assimilation of the group of which the child is a member or to the destruction of its culture. It is important that the unique characteristics and challenges of the region in which the child lives be taken into account.
The principle of substansive equality
Substantive equality means that all Aboriginal children can access their rights without discrimination, that the needs of children with disabilities can be accommodated, and that no jurisdictional disputes (e.g., between the provincial and federal governments) prevent a child from receiving the care and services to which they are entitled.
How do we determine the " greatest interest " of our children?
In determining the best interests of an Aboriginal child, several elements must be considered. Particular attention must be given to :
The physical, psychological and emotional well-being and safety of the child;
The importance of the child having an ongoing relationship with his or her family and the Aboriginal group, community or people of which he or she is a member and of maintaining his or her ties to his or her culture.
Should also be considered :
Her cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual heritage;
The child's needs, based on his/her developmental stage (including the need for stability);
The nature and strength of the child's relationship with his or her parents or any significant person in the child's life;
The importance he or she places on preserving his or her cultural identity and ties to his or her language, territory and community;
His or her views and preferences, taking into account his or her age and maturity level;
Any plans for his or her care, including care according to the customs and traditions of his or her community;
Any domestic violence and its impact on the child, including indirect violence to which the child may be exposed, and its physical, emotional and psychological consequences.
Any legal proceedings, orders, conditions or measures that affect the child's safety or well-being.
To whom does this Act apply?
The First Nations, Inuit and Métis Child, Youth and Family Services Act applies to all First Nations children and families, whether they live in or out of the community.
What happens if there is a conflict between the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act and the Child Protection Act?
Since its adoption, the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Child, Youth and Family Services Act has taken precedence over the Youth Protection Act. This means that if there is a conflict between the two Acts, the minimum standards of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act apply.
Section 18 of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Child, Youth and Family Services Act states that the inherent right of self-government recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 includes jurisdiction over child and family services. What does this mean?
affirms that the right to self-government in relation to child and family services includes legislative jurisdiction and the administration and enforcement of laws made under that legislative jurisdiction. Aboriginal governing bodies can therefore develop their own family protection and welfare laws. This is what the communities of Lac Simon, Pikogan, Winneway and Kitcisakik wish to do.
How will the communities of Lac Simon, Pikogan, Winneway and Kitcisakik implement the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act?
In order to ensure child and family services that are adapted to Anicinape realities and culture, the communities of Kicisakik, Lac Simon, Pikogan and Winneway have united and mobilized to develop their own legislation and take charge of their own youth protection system.
To guide the process, it was first deemed essential to document the collective memory of ancestral practices and to consult the communities on how they wished to foster their cultural identity and ensure the protection and well-being of their children and families.
The band councils mandated Mino Obigiwasin to implement the development of an Anicinape Child and Family Protection Act. Under the supervision of its Board of Directors, a working team was set up to carry out the consultation work in each of the communities and cities of the region. Although the new legislation has not yet been created and passed, Mino Obigiwasin is providing child protection services that are consistent with Anicinape values, in accordance with the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Child, Youth and Family Services Act.
The action plan for the consultations includes 3 phases :
Phase 1 – The Foundations
What principles, values and rules do the Anicinape people of the four participating communities want to see in this future law?
What traditional practices related to child protection and well-being should be included in the future law?
What are the community's obligations to its children and families?
Phase 2 – The processes, institutions and actors
What would be the roles and responsibilities of our child protection system?
What evaluation and intervention processes do we want to put in place?
How will we ensure that governance, conflict of interest rules, and monitoring of the quality of services work?
Phase 3 – Validation
Do the data collected during the consultations and their analysis reflect the values, needs and vision of the communities?
Following these consultations, work will be done to draft and implement the new Anicinape Youth and Family Protection Act in collaboration with the communities that initiated the process.