First Nations lobby for child protection funding

Chief Mark Wedge is ready to assume responsibility for child and family services. Over the past few years, the Carcross/Tagish First Nation has created its own child-protection laws. All it needs now is funding.

Chief Mark Wedge is ready to assume responsibility for child and family services.

Over the past few years, the Carcross/Tagish First Nation has created its own child-protection laws.

All it needs now is funding.

“We need comparable funding to the Yukon government’s (child and family services),” Wedge told a media conference on Thursday.

The Yukon government’s child and family services gets about $30 million annually, he said.

Carcross/Tagish would need $1.2 million a year to run its new family programs.

“Compared to our $1 billion budget, that’s not a whole lot,” said Wedge.

The ability to draw down legislation is written into First Nation final agreements, said Wedge.

“And the government needs to honour that.

“The Yukon is prepared to vacate the arena, but the government of Canada is not sure how to come up with the resources, even though it’s in the final agreements.”

More than 70 per cent of the children in care are First Nation, added Ta’an Chief Ruth Massie.

“And, as self-governing First Nations, we’ve not had a say in the (new Child and Family Services Act),” she said.

It took five years and more than $1 million to complete the Child and Family Services Act consultations, said Eleanor Millard, of the Grandparents Rights Association of the Yukon.

And then the Yukon government disregarded all the consultations, she said.

“They certainly ignored what the grandparents said.”

“Our recommendations have been ignored,” added Massie.

“But we want to be part and parcel of the act because it’s important for our children.”

Yukon First Nation concern about the new Yukon Child and Family Services Act include the sweeping powers handed the director, the lack of First Nation involvement, the lack of alternate dispute resolution and the inadequate role of the child advocate.

Premier Dennis Fentie has once again broken faith with Yukon First Nations, said NDP Leader Todd Hardy in the house on Thursday.

“It’s like dejà vu.

“At the very least, will he, the Minister of Health and Social Services, or both, immediately meet with the Coalition of Northern Aboriginals for Self-Determination and the Council of Yukon First Nations to discuss their concerns with this important child welfare legislation?”

“We’ve met our obligations; we’ve done our work,” said Fentie.

Massie and Wedge have formed a chiefs’ coalition with Kwanlin Dun’s Mike Smith and Kluane First Nation’s Willy Sheldon.

The four traveled to Ottawa to discuss the importance of implementing final agreements, “because they’re falling short,” said Sheldon.

“In Ottawa they need to be educated because they don’t understand what the agreements are, and what their legal obligations are.”

Wedge sees the new Carcross/Tagish child and family act as a model—“a template to use when (drafting other legislation) for education or land-use planning,” he said.

In the final agreements, First Nations are no longer dealing with just Indian and Northern Affairs.

“These agreements are with the government of Canada, and we will be dealing with other people, like the minister of Health and also Education,” said Wedge.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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