Children’s act rushed

A new children’s act has been in the making for five years, why not wait another several months? say Yukon First Nation leaders.

A new children’s act has been in the making for five years, why not wait another several months? say Yukon First Nation leaders.

Last week, chiefs attending a Council of Yukon First Nation’s leadership meeting passed a resolution asking the territory to delay introducing the act this spring.

It’s a progressive bill, but it needs substantive revision, said the chiefs.

There is concern about the lack of a children’s advocate, said Champagne/Aishihik Chief Diane Strand.

“We need to have an advocate,” she said.

It’s been a long process to draft the legislation, so take four or five more months to do it right, said Strand, who has been a foster parent in the past.

“When we asked the government about our concerns, they didn’t have an answer,” said Strand.

“We need those answers.”

The government has pledged to introduce the 116-page Child and Family Services Act in the legislature this spring.

After nearly five years of consultation and research, the government released a draft earlier this year.

Family, culture and community are the three pillars of the act, with an emphasis on giving First Nations more responsibility for planning and delivery of services.

It encourages placing children with extended family when possible and aims to lessen court involvement and strengthen the role of parents and children in determining a child’s placement.

It pledges more support for 19- to 24-year-olds who are making the transition to independent living from foster care.

Mandatory reporting of abuse and neglect will be required.

But critics note the lack of a children’s advocate in the act, something all other territories and provinces provide.

“Yukon First Nations and their citizens have identified serious concerns with respect to the proposed bill, and, as a result, it requires substantive revision,” says CYFN’s resolution.

The council also proposed holding a symposium to discuss the bill’s implications and to identify remaining concerns.

First Nation technicians “must be allowed” to work the territory offices to review the work and develop guidelines and revision of the bill once the targeted consultations are finished, says the resolution.

Health Minister Brad Cathers and other Health officials did not return calls before press time.

A letter to Premier Dennis Fentie drafted by the chiefs mirrors the content in the resolution.

Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Joe Linklater refused to sign the letter, and publicly admitted that fact during the leadership meeting.

Five years has been enough and the long process to implementation is becoming frustrating, said Linklater.

“The legislation is right there — it’s so close and we can’t seem to access the changes that we need,” he said.

“We’ve looked at it from the Old Crow perspective and we feel the act as it’s currently drafted is adequate. It’s not perfect, but it’s something we can work with.”

The legislation is needed now, he added.

“The current act is archaic and wasn’t designed to deal with self-governing First Nations so it doesn’t jive with any of the ways we do things now,” said Linklater.

“It needs to be changed. And it is. It just hasn’t been passed.”

First Nation participation in the drafting of the legislation was not always amicable.

While a council representative has been involved since the beginning, grand chief Andy Carville pulled out of the process in 2005.

Kwanlin Dun has never been involved.

The act is territorial legislation and First Nation administrations were involved only in a consultative role.

Government officials hoped First Nations and other stakeholders would review the legislation by the end of January.

Each First Nation has different problems when it comes to the capacity to run its own programs.

But some, like the Carcross/Tagish First Nation’s, are considering separate legislation that would override federal and territorial law.

Champagne/Aishihikk has run its own child and family services in the past, but difficulties forced it to pass responsibility back to the territory.

The First Nation is not drafting its own legislation, but could, in the future, research and possibly draw down the responsibility, said Strand.

“If (the new act) doesn’t work, we know we can go there,” she said.

Old Crow is not considering its own legislation, said Linklater.

“There’s an enormous liability when it comes to children in care, so we’re hoping this legislation finds areas where we develop partnerships where the territory will come to the First Nation and seek our advice before they do anything that relates to our children,” he said.

The act makes room for such a relationship, he said.

Contact Jeremy Warren at: jeremyw@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Awaken Festival organizers Meredith Pritchard, Colin Wolf, Martin Nishikawa inside the Old Firehall in Whitehorse on May 11. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Performing arts fest plans to awaken artistic talent in Whitehorse and the rural North

‘A value of ours is to make theatre as accessible as possible.’

April Mikkelsen tosses a disc during a ladies only disc golf tournament at Solstice DiscGolfPark on May 8. John Tonin/Yukon News
Yukon sees its first-ever women’s disc golf tournament

The Professional Disc Golf Assocation had a global women’s event last weekend. In the Yukon, a women’s only tournament was held for the first time ever.

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

A prescribed burn is seen from the lookout at Range Road and Whistle Bend Way in Whitehorse May 12. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Editorial: Are you ready for a forest fire?

Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse have listed some steps for Yukoners to boost safety and awareness

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Most Read