Manitoba Government Failing First Nations – AMC
WINNIPEG – Aboriginal - “Despite being informed by our elders and the tears of our grandmothers in re-shaping Child Protective Services for our children in our families on or off reserve, and the guarantee of the agreement from the provincial government, First Nations have witnessed failure on Manitoba’s part of upholding the agreement,” stated Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Derek Nepinak.
“Provincial officials, the provincial child welfare bureaucracy, and key individuals at the top of the child welfare provincial authorities hierarchy have strategically diminished, contravened and near completely denied the role of First Nations leadership in ensuring implementation of what was agreed to in the AJI-CWI,” adds Chief Nepinak. “What has transpired is a complete devolution of the care of our children by our Peoples to provincially controlled bodies. This devolution of jurisdiction also now includes management of in excess of approximately half a billion dollars annually in Manitoba. Such expenditures represent an industry of child apprehension,” continued the AMC Grand Chief.
Report held from AMC for Seven Weeks
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs were reacting to a one thousand page report which was just shared with First Nations regarding the death of five year old Phoenix Sinclair. The report, according to the AMC was held by the Province for seven weeks before distributing it among Manitoba First Nations leadership.
The AMC charges that “Contrary to the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry-Child Welfare Initiative (AJI-CWI), Manitoba’s Family Services Ministry withheld dialogue and consideration of First Nations participation in shaping the implementation discussion and committee. The report, represents the cumulative observations and recommendations of Inquiry Commissioner Ted Hughes”.
The current policy framework for administration and leadership of emergency services for First Nations children and youth in Manitoba is framed after the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, a Child Welfare Initiative. The joint initiative was envisioned by First Nations leadership to restructure the Child Welfare system. Included in the visionary initiative is a significant expansive role for First Nations in providing seamless services for First Nations children on or off-reserve. A key role in the decision-making structure is the ‘leadership council’, which was intended to be a leadership table made up of the parties to the AJI-CWI. The council was carefully managed by the province to not make any leadership decisions in the evolution and implementation of the initiative without First Nations input.
“Throughout the inquiry, as in other areas of the child welfare system, we all have witnessed individuals hiding behind their job titles, hiding behind their friends in the provincial bureaucracy and hiding behind unions to protect their jobs. In some instances, we have seen senior administrators protecting their own interests by using our own money for child services to take leadership into the courtroom. This system has been completely hijacked from our families and communities and now is the time for our Peoples to take back child protection and deconstruct the child apprehension industry,” concluded Grand Chief Nepinak.