Children’s Act back on track

First Nations and the territorial government are discussing children again. Almost two weeks ago, Council of Yukon First Nations representatives…

First Nations and the territorial government are discussing children again.

Almost two weeks ago, Council of Yukon First Nations representatives abandoned the Children’s Act review process.

Monday, the council returned to the table, Premier Dennis Fentie told the legislature.

“The grand chief (Andy Carvill) and I met … and we are proceeding now,” he said on Monday.

That contrasts with Carvill’s last announcement. He said his officials were quitting the process because of delays, the territory’s lack of commitment to the process and the council’s exclusion from a written draft.

However, government workers did not draft a policy, said Fentie.

“It was work done that consolidated 18 months of consultation and input from across the territory,” he said.

“It was information that allowed us to sit, at the officials level and discuss the policy based on the work done to date.”

Carvill recommended the council abandon the review permanently.

But the council did not agree.

“He was given a mandate by his chiefs to re-engage with the government, which he did (Monday),” said Fentie.

“We’re proceeding now with our policy work and in forming the drafting of the amendments for the Children’s Act review.”

Carvill could not be reached for comment.

No council representative has been appointed to the review committee yet.

Despite the turmoil, the review process was not crumbling, said Fentie.

 “It never was off track,” he added.

“Governments will come to crossroads where there is disagreement on whatever it may be.”

The Children’s Act review has been touted as a model of co-operation.

“The beauty of … our relationship with First Nations governments is we effectively work those areas out and proceed,” said Fentie this week.

“That’s why we’re able to deliver a collaborative form of governance in the territory as we committed to do in 2002.”

But the partnership message has not been consistent from Fentie’s office.

He vowed to plow ahead with or without the council’s participation.

“Whether it be through the (council), or with each individual First Nation government who we have our main responsibility to, we will continue to conclude this process, make the necessary amendments and improve, significantly, our ability to deal with children in care,” he said at the time.

About 80 per cent of children in care are aboriginal, so many felt a review without First Nations’ input was meaningless.

“If the First Nations aren’t part and parcel of this review, and kept as an equal partner throughout the whole process, it basically questions the whole validity of the review and the direction that it’s going in,” said Opposition leader Todd Hardy.

Their participation is vital, said Liberal MLA and Health and Social Services critic Gary McRobb.

“Without (the council’s) stamp of approval on the act, it’s basically a moot process,” he said.

Fentie and Health and Social Services minister Brad Cathers did not return phone calls from The News before press time.

However, work is continuing, Fentie told the legislature.

“So we’re moving ahead very co-operatively with First Nations governments on many many fronts,” he said.