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Advocates critical of coming child-welfare changes

Kids will fall through cracks

Advocates for children and First Nations say the federal government hasn't provided funding for or details about extensive child-welfare changes coming next month – and they suggest vulnerable children will suffer.

"My greatest fear is that kids will fall through the cracks and families will fall through the cracks," said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

The federal government has said the overhaul of Indigenous child welfare will reduce the number of kids in care by affirming the inherent rights of First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.

Indigenous groups — which are not defined in the legislation — are to give notice of their intent to exercise their jurisdiction or can request a three-way agreement with the federal and provincial governments.

The groups are to be allowed to develop their own child-welfare laws or implement traditional ones. Either would prevail over any federal and provincial laws.

Rola Tfaili, a spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada, said the government and Indigenous partners are to co-develop ways to bring in the changes.

Blackstock isn't optimistic that will be the case. First Nations and child-welfare experts drafted example legislation and submitted it to the federal government while the changes were being crafted, she said, but it was rejected.

"Any suggestion it was co-drafted is erroneous."

Blackstock said more red flags were raised when she tried to find out about funding for Indigenous groups moving to the new child-care model.

"There is no positive funding obligation on behalf of the federal government or indeed any other government to fund child-welfare services delivered under Indigenous laws," she said.



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