OTTAWA — Some Indigenous communities could soon take over authority for their child-welfare systems under a federal law that took effect this week.
The new law, Bill C-92, affirms the rights of those communities to enforce their own rules around child and family services.
It also shifts the focus of those services to preventing the removal of children from their families and communities.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the goal is to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous children currently under care and in generations to come.
A number of Indigenous communities have already expressed keen interest in taking over those responsibilities.
Indigenous children account for more than half of all kids in foster care even though fewer than 10 per cent of all Canadian children are Indigenous.
“Change will not come overnight,” Miller said in a statement issued Wednesday.
“The only way to achieve this is to continue to work with our partners through this transition period to make sure the law works for First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, and most importantly, for their children,” the minister said.
Until Indigenous communities pass their own child-services laws, Miller said services currently provided to Indigenous children will continue as before.
However, under Bill C-92, which became law in June and took effect Wednesday, Indigenous service providers will immediately have to apply basic principles set out in the act when a child comes into care, including consideration of the child’s physical and emotional well-being, the importance of the child’s relationship with his or her family and community and maintaining a connection to their culture.
Some Indigenous communities have expressed concerns that no stable funding to help them take over child-welfare services has been provided under the legislation.