I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to the 47th meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. We have a busy two-hour meeting in front of us today.
I would like to begin by welcoming Kha Shade Héni Mark Wedge, from the Carcross/Tagish First Nation in Yukon. Welcome, and I appreciate your early arrival this morning. I appreciate your three hours' difference from us. It's just shortly before 6:00 a.m., and we appreciate your commitment to meeting with our committee this morning.
We have one hour set aside for this morning's discussion on two topics. The first is on the issue of child and family services, and the second will in fact be our first meeting on specific claims.
If it's okay with you, Mr. Wedge, we will take the first hour and split it in two. If you have an opening statement on the issue of child and family services, we'll do that first, and then we'll go to questions from members on that subject. Once we wrap that questioning up, we'll move into the specific claims topic, and that should take us to the end of the hour.
If you'd like, please go ahead with the opening statement on the child and family services issue.
Thank you. Can you hear me all right?
I have a bit of a presentation. We can send it in to you a little bit later.
We've been now working on developing our Family Act, and it's taken over 10 years. We started developing our Family Act before our final agreements and self-government agreements came into full effect. We basically started engaging a full-time panel for five years and a full-time team of over six lawyers, policy workers, and experts for eight years. All this, and the Family Act has still not been proclaimed. In the meanwhile, the Yukon has gone through and changed their act, and there have been very few changes structure-wise to their act. However, we are experiencing some difficulties that I'll get into a little bit later.
At best, we look at the Yukon territorial government's act as a modified British Columbia act. I'll describe our act a little bit first. The Carcross/Tagish First Nation Family Act, as we refer to it, which is our family law, covers the same basic provisions of the Yukon territorial government's act relating to protection of children, but it does not have the same palette of legislation to refer to—for example, the Summary Convictions Act, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Territorial Court Act, and the Interpretation Act. The first five parts of our act are fundamentally pioneering new approaches to children and families at risk. Part of the reason that we've done this is that existing legislation in the Yukon act has not addressed our needs as a first nation, as an aboriginal community.
The process we used to develop our act was actually something that the Law Commission of Canada came up and reviewed. Even though they're not in existence today, they looked at traditional law and how it might be incorporated into and work with contemporary law. The way we started our act was by collecting traditional stories and identifying the Carcross/Tagish First Nation values and virtues. We transcribed over 300 traditional stories, and from those stories that related to the family, we pulled out the virtues, and it's around those virtues that we began developing our law and legislation.
We didn't start from the point in the bureaucracy. We started from the point in the community, the family, the citizens, and the children. Basically what we've done is that the five parts focus on the family, clan, community, and family council, and are based on responses of the children in need. We did a fairly significant review of those who had been adopted out and those who were in care. We started looking at how we could best address their needs. The first five parts enabled CTFN to deal with cases without Yukon territorial government cooperation. For example, if CTFN members voluntarily submit to the family council jurisdiction, this could be done today. We have the legislation in place--not that it's binding, because Canada has not yet agreed to it. It's on a voluntary basis, and we can use our family council and begin to implement the framework of it.
The holdup we're experiencing is under part 6, which is protective intervention provisions. These provisions are reliant upon the court and were not drafted until recently, because in the new Yukon territorial government act we expected the mandatory intervention provisions to be significantly changed and made fluently appropriate to the first nation cultures and traditions. We looked at them adopting some of those cultural values within their act. Unfortunately, they did not, so we had to work to redraft our act, our law, on mandatory provisions in ways that would not contravene the principles and values of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation law so that it could stand alone without the Yukon territorial government coordination of services and would not create confusion for social workers, judges, justices of the peace, and families through the development of two very different legal regimes.
So our intent was to develop law that would work with both Canada's and the Yukon's existing legislation.
Again, to reiterate, when the Yukon Territory recently amended their act, we expected they would work with our treaties and with our law-making capabilities. Unfortunately, they did not. I just want to point out that we did submit quite a lengthy submission to the Yukon government when they were reviewing it to look at how to incorporate traditional values and the fundamentals of our act. Unfortunately, the legislation did not reflect that. Currently--and I'll get into it a little bit later--we find ourselves in the position of maybe going to court on this.
We finished the final part of our act for consideration by the executive council, which is our first nation council, and for the approval of the final act that we took to the community. In accordance with the general council motion of August 28, 2008, the delegates passed it, and the executive council now is in the process of raising it to law. Unfortunately, right now we don't have the agreements with Canada and the Yukon to bring it into effect.
The creation of legislation takes time, as you recognize. We've been at this for 10 years, and very actively for eight years. We spent significant amounts of money to develop this law to work with the other ones. As the Law Commission of Canada pointed out, this is groundbreaking legislation. It was what the treaties were intended to do when we negotiated them for over 30 years. Our final self-government agreements were intended to provide law-making abilities to the first nations so that the laws would reflect the cultural values and extend them.
I'll give you a bit of a timeline. We started in 1997 with the state of the nation, and one of the first things our community said is that family is important. In 2001, we implemented a clan governance system. This was before our effective date. In 2002, we began to work more efficiently, drafting and bringing the stories into effect. In 2003, we finalized those stories. In April 2005, we had the first review by our community of our act, our legislation. In January of 2006, after we reviewed it, our general council approved it. In October of 2007, we made some amendments to try to fit in with the existing legislation of the Yukon government. In early spring of 2008, the Yukon government informed us there would be no cooperative approach to child welfare, and we were very disappointed with that. In April 2008, the consultation with the Yukon territorial government was suspended. In April we again revised our family act to represent some of the changes we had to make to accommodate the Yukon legislation. Again, in August of 2008, the general council passed the amendments we needed to make so that it would reflect and work with the existing legislation. In July of 2009, we completed the government intervention--part 6--in the components of our act; that was in terms of our legislation working together. In September of 2008, the Carcross/Tagish First Nation initiated our self-government agreement. Section 17 is on negotiations regarding the assumption of authority for child welfare. In December of 2008, we went to Ottawa to lobby on child welfare with INAC and with various government departments.
The deadline of March 31, 2009, for negotiation with Canada passed, and Canada was unwilling to meaningfully participate in negotiations, which it is bound to do under the treaties.
In April of 2009 the chief again travelled to Ottawa to raise the issue of the stalled negotiations.
In May 2009 the chief again travelled to Ottawa and attended the land claims agreement coalition to look at how other first nations and self-governing first nations around Canada were experiencing similar issues and also to talk about child welfare.
In June 2009 the Yukon chiefs attended the western premiers' conference to again bring forth this issue of child welfare and child protection.
Between December 2009 and May 2010, we consulted on the final draft of the legislation. Canada was invited to participate in the consultation but failed to send a representative. These are modern-day treaties that Canada, Yukon, and the first nations entered.
In March 2010 the general council passed a resolution urging a conclusion to this process and the end of child apprehension on the Carcross/Tagish first nation traditional territory.
In November 2010 the Yukon government and the Carcross/Tagish first nation agreed to send a joint letter urging Canada to return to the PSTA table--the programs and services transfer agreement table--to meaningfully discuss child welfare and the Carcross/Tagish first nation family law. We had started the programs and services transfer agreement, which had to do with the funds required. Both Yukon and the Carcross/Tagish first nation identified what it would cost the Carcross/Tagish first nation.
That's the background history.
I have one other point. About a week and a half ago we went to court. The children of one of our citizens had been apprehended. The judges are currently trying to figure out what to do. The grandmother who started their healing process about three years ago when the case started has gone through a healing process and is now ready to take the child, but Yukon law doesn't allow the grandmother to take responsibility for the child. Now the judges have to start figuring out how this works between our law and the Yukon law.
Now we're studying specific claims, particularly claims that are over $150 million.
As you know, there are two processes. The claims that are under that number now go to the new tribunal, while the ones that are over don't. Without getting into the details of your specific claim, can you tell us the experience you've had with specific claims, and, once more, if you have any recommendations?
By the way, you said you were putting in a submission on family and child services. When you put that in to us, could you make sure you put in the recommendations that you would like this committee to make related to the federal government?
Now, could you tell us about any problems or good aspects related to the specific claims process, especially for claims over $150 million, and give us recommendations on how we could improve that specific claims process?