Ranj Pillai, deputy premier, from left, Seamus O’Regan, federal minister of Indigenous services, and Peter Johnston, Council of Yukon First Nations chief, speak with the media about a trilateral meeting on April 26. O’Regan said child apprehensions will be put to an end. (Julien Gignac/Yukon News)

Federal minister says work being done to keep Indigenous children out of care

‘We gotta stop it’

Child apprehensions are going to be put to an end, said the federal government’s minister of Indigenous services at a trilateral meeting on April 26.

“We gotta stop it,” said Seamus O’Regan, who was in Whitehorse to meet with First Nations chiefs and territorial ministers, “and the best way to do that is to stop apprehending children and taking children, separating them from their families and communities and allowing communities to affirm their responsibilities to look after their children.”

His comments came one day after the Yukon’s child and youth advocate, Annette King, released a review that tackled systemic issues in group care, the main point being that more should be done to keep Indigenous youth and children connected to their cultures. One way to do that, she said, is to invest in family-centred care.

Of 94 children and youth part of King’s review, 79 per cent identified as Indigenous.

Asked what the federal government is doing to curtail child apprehensions, O’Regan said the Child and Family Services budget has been doubled over three years, now at $1.2 billion.

But 80 per cent of it goes towards apprehensions, he said.

“That is unacceptable.”

O’Regan plugged new legislation intended to reverse this and keep kids with their families.

“Our Child and Family Services legislation, Bill C-92, is one of the most groundbreaking, historic pieces of legislation, particularly in terms of reconciliation that the country has ever seen,” he said, noting principles included within it that will “empower” communities to develop their own child and family services.

This bill hasn’t passed the House of Commons yet. It received its second reading in March.

“A socio-economic reason is not enough to separate a child from its community. We know the harm that that causes. We continue to deal with people who have come from that system and we have to stop it,” O’Regan said.

Before officials spoke with the media, they signed an updated intergovernmental forum protocol, given that O’Regan took over the file of Indigenous services from Jane Philpott, who was removed from caucus following the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Carolyn Bennett, Crown-Indigenous relations minister, also said to be in the Yukon, was unavailable for questions from the local media.

Bennett has taken over Dominic LeBlanc’s duties as minister of northern affairs. On the day of the trilateral meeting it was reported that LeBlanc is going on hiatus because of cancer.

Overall, conversations at the meeting were copacetic, officials said.

“At the end of the day, regardless of the politics, whether it’s political allegiances or what colour you may be, we’re all in this together,” said Peter Johnston, grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations.

Deputy Premier Ranj Pillai commended O’Regan for his contributions during the meeting.

“I think it’s going to be a great working relationship. I think that your perspective is gonna be much appreciated and your style of working through some very tough files. I’m very excited about the renewal of this trilateral agreement and our commitment, by all of us, to the intergovernmental table.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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