Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott says she has concerns with Manitoba’s plans to reform its First Nations child welfare system.
Specifically, the minister told CBC she believes incentives to encourage non-Indigenous families to adopt First Nations children should be avoided so as not to replicate mistakes of the past.
Philpott, who described the state of the child welfare system in Canada as a “humanitarian crisis,” said the federal government is determined to work in concert with the provinces and Indigenous peoples to create a system that keeps more First Nations children in their communities.
Indigenous people make up 17 per cent of Manitoba’s population, but Indigenous children are overrepresentated in government care, accounting for almost 90 per cent of the 10,700 children in the province’s system.
The Progressive Conservative government in Manitoba is pushing ahead with reforms, with a special committee expected to present recommendations this spring.
As the system is currently structured, most child welfare agencies obtain part of their funding for each First Nations child they place in care, creating what some see as a financial incentive to take kids from their families. Manitoba has sought to dismantle such a system by granting block funding to agencies — entirely independent from the numbers held in care.
But, the province is also introducing adoption supports, promising legislation that will include subsidies to promote the legal guardianship of foster children, something that has First Nations leaders worried.
“This is putting children at risk of being in non-Indigenous homes permanently,” Cora Morgan, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ family advocate, recently warned.
“When probably close to 90 per cent of our children are placed in non-Indigenous homes, and they’re not having access to culturally appropriate services or meaningful connections to culture and identity, then I have…