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Results: 1 - 15 of 29
View Ken McDonald Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Ken McDonald Profile
2019-06-04 13:22 [p.28487]
Mr. Speaker, something that comes to my mind when we talk about the budget and what we have done to help middle-class families is the Canada child benefit, which we changed when we came into power. We started to send it to people tax free. We stopped sending it to the wealthiest people.
Could the member expand on what that has meant for her riding and the people in it? In my riding of Avalon, each year approximately $48 million go to needy families, which is spend on their children and the necessities they need. It is tax free. Could she please comment on that?
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by acknowledging that we are meeting on the traditional, unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
Today has been a powerful and emotional day for indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians alike. With the release of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, we took another step in identifying the unacceptable gaps that exist between first nations, Inuit and Métis people and the rest of Canada.
Our government is working to end the ongoing national tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The commissioners of the national inquiry did important work, and now it is up to us as the federal government and up to us individually as Canadians to develop a national action plan and to implement those recommendations in partnership with first nations, Inuit and Métis people.
The bill before us addresses an important part of the work we need to do to advance reconciliation, and that is to address gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, thereby improving the quality of life for indigenous peoples right across the country.
Protecting and promoting the well-being of indigenous children and families should be the top priority of the federal government and all governments across the country. That has obviously not always been the case. Members of the House are aware of the pain and suffering that continue to be inflicted on indigenous children and families in this country.
Separating indigenous children from their families is not just something that happened in the past. This is something that occurs every day, to this very day. In fact, it is a worsening problem. More indigenous children are in care now than at the height of the operation of residential schools.
In terms of hard numbers, more than 52% of children in foster care in Canada are indigenous, yet they represent less than 8% of the population. Studies show that the average indigenous child in foster care may live with anywhere between three and 13 different families before turning 19 years old. This is unacceptable and it has to stop.
I think we can all agree that the current system needs to change. As parliamentarians, we must act. We believe in a system where indigenous peoples are in charge of their own child and family services, something we recognize should have been the case all along. Indigenous families are currently bound by rules and systems that are not their own and do not reflect their cultures, their identities, their traditions, their communities or their ways. No wonder they have not worked. This bill sets out to change that.
First and foremost, Bill C-92 sets out principles that would apply across the country to guide the provision of child and family services involving indigenous children and families. These principles are informed by extensive engagement with indigenous people all over the country. The principles in the bill, which are the best interests of the child, substantive equality and cultural continuity, are aligned with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
If no agreement is reached within 12 months, but reasonable efforts were made to do so, the indigenous law would also have force of law as federal law. In other words, should a government not act in good faith after 12 months of negotiations of a coordination agreement, indigenous child and family services law would have precedence as a federal law. To be clear, as a federal statute, the indigenous law would stand on its own; it would not be subject to the whims of a federal or provincial government. It would be equal to, not lesser than.
To promote a smooth transition and implementation of Bill C-92, Canada will explore the creation of distinctions-based transition governance structures. The co-developed governance structures would identify tools and processes to increase the capacity of communities as they assume responsibility of child and family services. During this phase, we would continue our work with first nations, Inuit and Métis partners, as well as with the provinces and territories, to set out the details about how to support communities to exercise their jurisdiction. The bill also provides a clear affirmation of the inherent right of first nations, Inuit and Métis to exercise their own jurisdiction in relation to child and family services.
Pursuant to Bill C-92, if an indigenous group or community wishes to exercise its authority in relation to child and family services and have its own laws take precedence over federal, provincial or territorial laws, the Minister of Indigenous Services and the provincial or territorial government shall enter into trilateral discussions to develop a coordination agreement.
If a coordination agreement is reached within 12 months following the request, the laws of the indigenous group or community would have force of law as federal law and would prevail over federal, provincial and territorial child and family services laws.
Gone are the days of top-down colonial solutions. It is contrary to the spirit of reconciliation, goes against the principle of codevelopment that has guided this proposed legislation, and they just do not work.
This legislation is an accumulation of intensive engagement, including nearly 2,000 participants across 65 sessions, from elders, youth, women, grandmothers, aunties and from those with lived experience in a broken child and family services system. We heard what needed to be included in the bill to make successful the exercise of jurisdiction that is already an inherent right of first nations, Inuit and Métis people.
What we heard included values and cultural practices, lived experience and academic research, as well as recommendations of a reference group that was comprised of representatives from national indigenous organizations.
First nations, Inuit and Métis people have asked time and again for codeveloped legislation, from resolutions passed by the Assembly of First Nations in May and December 2018, to hearing that Inuit leadership wanted a distinctions-based approach, and that the Métis wanted jurisdiction over child and family services to be recognized through legislation.
Since the emergency meeting convened by my predecessor in January 2018, there have been extensive meetings and consultations across the country in an effort to get this right.
Even in weeks preceding the introduction of this legislation, we were incorporating the suggestions of indigenous groups, provincial and territorial partners. Those suggestions made the bill that I was fortunate enough to inherit much stronger.
We did not stop there. There are no closed doors to our indigenous partners or to the provinces and the territories. This legislation and the children it aims to protect are only served if we collaborate and ensure their best interests.
Many came forward and offered suggestions on how to improve the bill, and I am pleased to support the changes made by the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. These amendments reflect what was heard from a number of witnesses, especially around funding, around balancing physical and cultural security in the best interest of an indigenous child and around ensuring implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples as a purpose of the bill.
With regard to funding, we cannot presume that the funding models that have supported the current broken system will be what indigenous groups want to use while exercising their jurisdiction. Those models and levels should be discussed and designed through the coordination agreement process to ensure they reflect the unique needs of each community and are not a one-size-fits-all approach.
We pledge to work with partners to identify long-term needs and funding gaps. The amendment supported at committee guarantees that funding will be sustainable, needs-based and consistent with the principle of substantive equality, so that long-term, positive results for indigenous children, families and communities are secured.
Both the House committee and the aboriginal peoples committee in the other place heard that there needed to be a better balance between the physical well-being of a child and the preservation of cultural identity, language and connection to the community. We completely agree, and we fully support the amendment that will see primary consideration given to a child's physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being, as well as to the importance of that child having an ongoing relationship with his or her family, indigenous group or community.
In committee, members of the official opposition and the NDP also presented important amendments to strengthen the bill. I thank them for their efforts. Bill C-92 establishes a legislative framework and will ensure that solid guiding principles are in place to protect the needs of indigenous children and families for generations to come.
Now is the time to follow through on our promises to indigenous children, families and communities. Our promise is that the same old broken system that needlessly separates so many children from their families, that removes them from their culture, that cuts them off from their land and their language, not be allowed to continue and that we affirm and recognize that indigenous families know what is best for indigenous children.
Ours is a historic opportunity to make a real, meaningful change to address centuries of harm and improve the lives of first nations, Inuit and Métis people. I hope everyone will join me in supporting this bill.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, we are committed to working with the provinces and territories, and we have built in the notion of a coordination agreement to ensure there is a buffer between an indigenous group requesting that it be able to exercise its inherent right over this jurisdiction and the actual inheritance of that right. There are issues with capacity, and we need to ensure that capacity is built up, so we have put 12 months in place. The issue in some provinces and with some of the people I have spoken to is that 12 months is too long. They want to assume that responsibility right away.
There is a push and a pull, and we will attempt to find the compromise. However, most certainly this is not going to work unless we work with provinces and territories, and we certainly have every intention of doing so.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this time, once again, to thank the committee for its very thoughtful work on this matter.
Most certainly, we heard them and we did make amendments, particularly, as the member mentioned, on the issue of funding. We gave assurances to all parties to make sure they knew that wording around sustainable funding and the needs-based approach were included. Most certainly, this government has proven, in its actions and with the sum total of the amounts it has considered for child and family services, that we are committed. However, we understand the need for an amendment to give assurance to all parties involved and invested that we heard them and that we understand the need for a sustainable needs-based approach.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his kind words.
Today was a weighty day for anyone who was present for the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the presentation made to the Government of Canada. This is an essential part of what will be our very fulsome response to that report.
I grew up in the north, next to indigenous communities. There is a principle for anyone who grows up in a small town. The people in those towns usually know what is best for those towns. When this is extrapolated to a much more substantive and real level, indigenous peoples have had this right. They have always had this right, and now we are recognizing and affirming it. We are making it a reality and allowing them the opportunity to come up with effective, local, grassroots solutions to those problems. We know that they will be more effective. They have to be more effective.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, I would answer the question quite frankly by saying, sometimes with difficulty. I made a point of speaking to the chiefs of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs directly. This was codeveloped legislation, which is something that indigenous groups have been requesting for some time. We developed this side by side with, among others, the Assembly of First Nations, but also the ITK and the Métis. In doing so, we came to some very real conclusions.
One of them was that we had to ensure that solutions and local laws that were engineered by first nations would receive the protection under federal law that they deserved. I know that particularly the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs was worried about some very good legislation that it passed locally itself, which is the bringing our children home act. What I emphasized is that all the solutions they are talking about with BOCHA, as we call it, can not only be taken in with this legislation, but protected by this legislation. In other words, this legislation would allow the AMC and bands within it to come up with very local solutions, very grassroots-based solutions, that will then receive federal protection.
View Yvonne Jones Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Yvonne Jones Profile
2019-05-09 14:09 [p.27581]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge the positive impact of the child tax benefit that was introduced by our government and the tremendous impact that it is having on families and communities across Labrador.
As of January 2019, more than 4,700 children and their families in Labrador communities have received the child tax benefit. This has meant over $1.5 million in payments to these families.
Families in Labrador, like all families across Canada, are using this money to help pay for child care, after-school programs and improvements to housing. This money is helping them address food insecurity. Most importantly, it is lifting children in Canada out of poverty. Since 2013, child poverty in Canada has been reduced by 40%, in part due to the child tax benefit.
We know there is more to do and we have acknowledged that. We will continue to work towards—
View Yvonne Jones Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Yvonne Jones Profile
2019-04-11 11:57 [p.26985]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for all her work on this bill. It is signature legislation in Canada. It has been asked for by indigenous governments and indigenous communities for many years.
I can understand why the opposition would like to delay this even further, because for 10 years, the Conservatives had no action on this file and on delivering for indigenous children in this country. We are now doing that, and we are doing it after very careful, very thoughtful and very respectful consultation with indigenous groups and leadership. That is the means for this bill to continue with that relationship to get it right.
I want to commend the minister, and I want to support her in what she is asking today. I agree that the committee is the place to do a lot of this work that needs to be done. I would ask the minister to speak to that.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
moved that Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to open second reading debate on Bill C-92, an act respecting first nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. Before I go any further, it is important to recognize that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
My remarks today will focus on three key areas: first, how Bill C-92 aligns with this government's commitment to renewal of the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples; second, the importance of child welfare generally and the necessity of cultural protections in child welfare regimes; and third, how implementation of this bill would allow for greater protection of vulnerable children, youth and families while recognizing and affirming the inherent right of indigenous peoples to self-determination.
I cannot in good conscience stand in this House today without recognizing the important work done by the member for Markham—Stouffville. The member got us started on this road, and we cannot forget her accomplishments as Canada's first minister of indigenous services. We are very grateful for what she did during her time.
While we are providing credit where it is due, I must acknowledge the role of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations in bringing the bill forward. Her commitment to renewing the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples is clear and it is unflagging. It is my pleasure to stand and recognize her contributions to the co-development of this important legislation.
Earlier I mentioned how Bill C-92 aligns with the government's progress on renewing Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples. Canadians are increasingly aware that indigenous issues are Canadian issues, that indigenous issues are critical to this country and that indigenous issues must be addressed. This government continues its strong commitment to these issues, because Canadians want it, because this country needs it and because, fundamentally, it is the right thing to do.
We have made historic investments to build and repair thousands of new and safe housing units in indigenous communities, like those I witnessed recently in Cat Lake. More importantly, we are delivering those investments through a new distinctions-based approach. There is no more one-size-fits-all approach that is supposed to work from southwestern B.C. to the far reaches of the Arctic to the tip of coastal Labrador. We have partnered with indigenous people to create a first nations-led housing strategy, the Inuit Nunangat housing strategy, and the Métis Nation's housing strategy.
All Canadians should have access to safe, clean drinking water. We are committed to delivering on that, and we are on track to be able to lift long-term drinking water advisories on public water systems on reserve by the end of March 2021, as planned.
We continue to invest in infrastructure in indigenous communities, including roads, schools, recreation centres and aerodromes, to name just a few. We are doing so because we realize that efficient infrastructure helps communities prosper. Thriving communities lead to activities, initiatives and growth that create economic development opportunities.
We know that the long shadow cast by decades of neglect will not be erased overnight. It will be difficult to reverse, but it is possible. It is essential that we take these steps now and in partnership, not with paternalism.
This government and this Prime Minister have committed, since the beginning, to a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. This bill is a wonderful example of this, and it is my hope, through this debate and with the support of members on all sides of this House, and in the other place, that with it ultimately passing, this bill could serve as an example of the type of work we need to continue doing.
Before getting into the minutiae of the bill before the House today, I think there may be some value in pulling back a little and speaking generally about child welfare and the emerging recognition of the importance of cultural stability being provided to children who are in care.
Interestingly enough, March is National Social Work Month in Canada. I say that because I think it is important for us to take a moment during this debate to acknowledge and appreciate the professional duties executed by social workers day in and day out right across this country. They are often placed in settings that most Canadians do not even know exist, and they are often forced to make difficult choices across stark options. They work within systems, and the decisions they make are often mandated by those systems. I want to be clear that when we talk about the need to address systemic faults, we do so without unduly criticizing those who work within those systems.
All that is to say that there is increasing acknowledgement in both the academic and operational worlds that current child welfare systems are failing indigenous youth.
Consider that less than 8% of this country's population is indigenous, but indigenous children make up 52% of children in care. That statistic is horrifying. That statistic is appalling. However, that is only part of the story. Far too frequently, non-indigenous social workers come into communities that are not theirs, apply an artificial standard without any context for the communities they are in, and take children away from their mothers, grandmothers and aunties. They take them away from their cousins and their classmates and bring them to another place where they are supposedly safe. They are safe, but alone; safe, but isolated from their culture; safe, but ultimately terrified. This happens because a child protection system built on a western and urban model has no place in indigenous communities.
Let us use my home province as an example. In Newfoundland and Labrador, once the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development has made the determination that a child is in need of protective intervention, it assesses the availability of placement options. It is a four-level continuum that starts with family-based placements, then moves to non-family-based foster homes, then eventually moves to staffed residential placements. The issue, of course, is that in small isolated communities like Nain or Natuashish, the availability of placement options is exceptionally limited. That holds true whether or not a small community is an indigenous community. The smaller the town, the fewer the options.
What ends up happening, of course, is that kids who need protective intervention generally have to move away from their towns and into larger areas. If children are taken away from their families and placed with strangers, that has an incredibly traumatic impact on them as children. If children are taken away from their families and placed in a town where no one looks like them or sounds like them and no one understands where they are from, well, members get the picture.
Existing systems too often place a priority on an urban definition of “safety” while ignoring the developmental necessity of culture, of community, of language and of a sense of belonging. No good comes from stripping away children from everything and everyone they know. Sometimes it may be necessary, but it should not be the standard course of action. Unless we change how we operate child welfare for indigenous communities, we will continue to cause serious harm to individuals and communities.
This is beyond unacceptable. This is a humanitarian crisis. We must act. With the proposed bill in place, we would have a path forward with which we could achieve the fundamental reform required.
Let me turn our attention to how implementation of this bill would allow for greater protection of vulnerable indigenous children, youth, and families while recognizing and affirming the inherent right of indigenous peoples to self-determination.
First and foremost, Bill C-92 would help to ensure that indigenous child and family services would be based firmly on putting the child first, not on the convenience of the system; that they would be fully aligned with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; a that we would provide clear affirmation of the inherent right of first nations, Inuit and Métis to exercise their jurisdiction in relation to child and family services, enabling communities to not only administer prevention and protection programs and services that reflect their customs, practices and traditions but to also enact laws in this area if they decided to do so.
The proposed process would not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Indigenous peoples could exercise partial or full jurisdiction over child and family services at their own pace. This would enable indigenous people to tailor the exercise of their jurisdiction to their needs.
In this legislation, we are setting out principles applicable, on a national level, to the provision of child and family services in relation to indigenous children and families. These principles would help ensure that indigenous children and their families would be treated with dignity and that their rights would be preserved. Some of these principles, for example, would help to ensure that indigenous children were not taken into care based on socioeconomic conditions alone, as is happening right now. If children were apprehended, it would be in their best interest, and they would be placed with a family member or within the immediate community.
Rather than a system designed to respond to crises, we must enable a system focused on prevention. This legislation emphasizes the need for the system to shift from apprehension to prevention, with priority given to services that promote preventative care to support families. It gives priority to services like pre-natal care and support for parents. We know, academics know and front-line professionals know that preventative care is a leading indicator of child success and positive development.
The provisions in the bill respecting first nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families mark the beginning of a 180-degree turn, a turn away from a system that allowed residential schools to happen.
Bill C-92 also demonstrates the importance of a collaborative approach when looking at how legislation impacting indigenous peoples is developed. This legislation flows from an intensive period of engagement with first nations, Inuit and Métis leaders, communities and individuals, including the provinces and territories. This engagement would continue in the development and implementation of a new child and family services system, which the bill would enable.
Indigenous families and communities are being torn apart. Indigenous children are being taken from their families and communities and deprived of their language and culture. Their rights as members of indigenous communities, as children and as human beings have been trampled on for too long.
This bill is in line with our government's commitment to a renewed relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples.
The bill recognizes the current systemic issues in child protection generally and reinforces the necessity of cultural protections in child welfare systems.
The bill would allow for greater promotion of vulnerable children, youth and families while recognizing and affirming the inherent right of indigenous peoples to self-determination.
Where capacity exists to build safe spaces for children and youth, where aunties, uncles, cousins and friends can come together in mutual support, and where communities want to end a cycle of child removal that creates lasting and widespread trauma, no children should be removed to spend their formative years in isolation, away from the supports they need to get the best start in life, away from the places where they belong. For children to go out and make their way in the world, they must know their place in the world. They must know where they are from. They must know where they belong. They must know who they are.
Time is of the essence. We must work collaboratively and effectively. We must maintain this momentum. We must see this through. An entire generation of indigenous children and youth are counting on us to get this right, and we cannot let them down.
There can be no greater measure of a society than how we treat our most vulnerable, how we treat our children. Today we can stand a little taller, because today we are moving to make it right. We are working to make it right.
I urge all members to join me in moving toward an end to this crisis with their support for Bill C-92.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, the engagements and discussions with the provinces and territories continue. This is not the end game. The legislation would provide a path forward.
I would also emphasize for those provinces and territories, and for those watching today, that they can make decisions based on the principles as they are currently outlined in the proposed legislation. We have doubled the amount of money for child and family services since 2016 to some $1.2 billion. Therefore, we have the means there currently and are providing those principles, as the hon. member said, with which many are in agreement. Therefore, there is nothing to stop them.
Having said that, the hon. member is quite right. We need to work closely with the provinces and territories, and those conversations continue.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, the issue of funding is a very important one. However, it would be extremely presumptuous to determine what those levels should be ahead of time. We will be working with individual groups to assure them of the level of funding and to ensure they have it.
Jordan's principle is something that sweeps well beyond child and family services. It also enters into the fields of primarily health but also education and other fields with respect to governments work with indigenous groups. Therefore, Jordan's principle is not part of this. However, anybody who reads the legislation would realize that the principle of Jordan's principle is imbued within the legislation.
On the issue of financing, we will deal with that with the individual first nations, Métis and Inuit groups.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, it is startling to think that of the $1.2 billion toward child and family services since 2016, 80% of that goes toward what we call protective services, which is a nice way of saying apprehension or some may call it abduction. The idea behind this is recognizing and affirming the inherent right of indigenous groups to child and family services and in working with them to build that capacity so they do not see their children apprehended and taken away to places where they are not able to embrace their culture. The legacy of these apprehensions will live on for decades and we must put an end to them now.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, I fundamentally agree with the hon. member in the importance of consultation and of getting it right. I will quote from Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, who said:
This legislation is first and foremost about First Nations children and their safety, their security and their future....The tragedy of thousands of First Nations children in care tells us we need a new approach. This legislation will recognize First Nations jurisdiction so they can build their own systems based on their own governance, laws and policies. Our focus has to be on prevention over apprehension, and keeping children close to their cultures and families. We need investments to support this work, and we need everyone to support this approach. The time is long overdue for First Nations to finally regain responsibility over our children.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, the most important thing we can do is to listen to indigenous groups and we have done that, having read Perry Bellegarde's quote on his reaction to this legislation.
I will also speak to President Natan Obed of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, who said:
I am encouraged by ITK’s relationship with...the Department of Indigenous Services and anticipate further discussions between Inuit leadership and government as this legislation moves forward...With today’s announcement, the level of ambition of both Inuit and government have aligned to do more to protect Inuit children.
President Chartier from the Métis National Council said:
Time is of the essence in acting on the crisis of Métis children in care and ensuring the right of Métis governments to establish and maintain their own child welfare agencies....The proposed legislation is a necessary and long overdue first step to achieve that.
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