Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, Canada, and Ontario sign historic child and family services coordination agreement 

News release

March 10, 2022 — Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, Treaty 3, 1873 Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada

When all partners and orders of government work together to put the interests of Indigenous children first, everyone benefits. Most importantly, when First Nations can exert their jurisdiction over child and family services, it means their children and youth can remain connected to their families and communities, surrounded by their culture.

In an historic first in Ontario, Chief Waylon Scott, Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Federal Minister of Indigenous Services, the Honourable Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario Minister of ChildrenCommunity and Social Services and the Honourable Greg Rickford, Ontario Minister of Indigenous Affairs signed a trilateral coordination agreement for child and family services. The signing was celebrated today at a ceremony in Wabaseemoong’s community.

This coordination agreement supports Wabaseemoong Independent Nations’ Customary Care Code which has had force of federal law since January 8, 2021. The Code supports Wabaseemoong's exercise of jurisdiction over Wabaseemoong children and families. The coordination agreement outlines the roles and responsibilities of all parties to support coordination of child and family services. It also provides for mechanisms to address funding from the federal and provincial governments to ensure the necessary financial resources are in place.

This is the first coordination agreement signed in Ontario and the second in Canada since the federal legislation An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families came into force in 2020.

Having a child and family services law was always of integral importance to Wabaseemoong Independent Nations. The community began developing its law at a community planning level in 2011. Leadership recognized the work needed at the grass roots level to ensure its success. Culture and tradition are of the upmost importance for Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, and so this work began in ceremony. The community worked closely and collectively with the elders, youth and community members to bring to life what you see today.

Wabaseemoong Independent Nations have always honoured their youth by ensuring they are a central focus to create a better future. In honouring this approach, leadership of Wabaseemoong Independent Nations approved the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations Customary Care Code in 2017 with the leadership of youth.

The signing of the trilateral coordination agreement on child and family services is a culmination of the hard work by Wabaseemoong Independent Nations and partners over many years and will have lasting impacts for generations to come. 

Quotes

“I think today is a day that can once again show that we as leadership take the future of our youth seriously, we look at them as our future and we need to do what is best for our children. We need to lead our youth with love, tradition, culture and their community. We have a way to go with reconciliation in this country, but this partnership is an example and a step in the right direction. By letting Indigenous communities take the lead and working in partnership, you can see by this historic event the strides that can be made, and making those changes for the youth is fundamental in all the work we do”

Chief Waylon Scott,
Wabaseemoong Independent Nations 

“I congratulate Wabaseemoong Independent Nations and the many partners and advocates who have worked over the past number of years to make this coordination agreement happen. This is an historic first in the Province of Ontario, the second in Canada, and is leading the way for many others to follow in the months and years ahead. When all orders of government work together, we can ensure that First Nations children and families have the supports and services they need, but most importantly ensure those supports are First Nations-led, under First Nations jurisdiction, and maintaining crucial connections to their culture and community.

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services

“Indigenous children are the future leaders of their communities, and Indigenous communities are best placed to lift up their families and support their children. I want to congratulate Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, and all involved in today’s announcement. Respecting Wabaseemoong Independent Nation’s inherent right to have jurisdiction of their child and family services is an important step towards our shared goal of ensuring the safety and well-being of all Indigenous children.”

The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs 

“Achieving this agreement marks an historic moment for the Wabaseemong community and is a testament to the power of partnerships when we work from the shared goal of improving outcomes for children. The agreement reached today will hopefully be an example for jurisdictions across Canada as we mark together the incredible significance and importance of First Nations communities having the autonomy to support the well-being of their children and families.”

The Honourable Dr. Merrilee Fullerton
Minister of Children, Community and Social Services

“Wabaseemoong Independent Nations have charted their own path when it comes to child and family services, especially through the development and implementation of the Wabaseemoong Customary Care Code. Today’s landmark agreement is a testament to the community’s commitment to Wabaseemoong children and families.”

The Honourable Greg Rickford
Minister of Indigenous Affairs 

Quick facts

  • Child and Family Services for most Indigenous children is provided under the legalisation of the Province or Territory where the children and families reside. 

  • However, on January 1, 2020, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families came into force. The Act provides a pathway for Indigenous communities to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services and sets out principles applicable, on a national level, to the provision of child and family services in relation to Indigenous children.

  • This coordination agreement supports the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations Customary Care Code, which has had force of federal law since January 8, 2021. The Code supports Wabaseemoong's exercise of jurisdiction over Wabaseemoong children and families. The agreement outlines the roles and responsibilities of all parties to support coordination of child and family services. It also provides for mechanisms to address funding from the federal and provincial governments to ensure the necessary financial resources are in place.

  • In November 2020, the Prime Minister announced over $542 million in funding to advance First Nations, Inuit, and Métis engagement to co-develop the implementation of the Act, and to support Indigenous communities and groups in building the capacity to establish their own child and family services systems. 

  • This funding supports the $3 billion already invested to improve the Government of Canada’s funding support for First Nations child and family services.

  • Through Budget 2021, the government invested an additional $1 billion over five years, with $118.7 million ongoing, to increase funding to support First Nations child and family services. 

  • As part of the Ontario’s Child Welfare Redesign strategy, the province has since, July 2020:

    • Invested approximately $6 million annually, to support First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to develop and implement their own Indigenous-led models for child and family services, including those governed under Indigenous laws.
    • Invested $10 million for mental health, addictions and trauma supports as part of Indigenous-led community-based programs designed to reduce violence against Indigenous women, improve healing, health and wellness, and reduce the overrepresentation of children and youth in the child welfare and youth justice systems.
    • Invested $5.4 million in additional annual funding to enhance the Family Well-Being program through the Ministry of Health’s Roadmap to Wellness Strategy, bringing the total annual budget to $35.4 million
    • Provided $5 million in annual funding to enhance access to prevention-focused customary care for Indigenous children and youth, so more children can remain closer to their homes, families and communities.

Associated links

Contacts

For more information, media may contact:

Alison Murphy
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services
Alison.Murphy@sac-isc.gc.ca

Media Relations
Indigenous Services Canada
819-953-1160
SAC.media.ISC@canada.ca

Adolphus Cameron
Wabaseemoong Independent Nations
807-407-2097
Adolphus.cameron@wabashki.ca

Krystle Caputo
Minister’s Office
The Honourable Dr. Merrilee Fullerton
Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Service
Krystle.caputo@ontario.ca

Media Relations
Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services
media.mccss@ontario.ca

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