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Manitoba, First Nations sign agreement to transfer child welfare jurisdiction

The Manitoba government and First Nations in the province have signed a new agreement that will see the jurisdiction over child welfare transferred to First Nations.

Nearly 40 Indigenous leaders were in attendance for the historic transfer on Monday, the province said.

“Every child in our province deserves to grow up with the ability to answer who they are and where they come from,” said Premier Wab Kinew in a news release.

“Together, we can build a future in Manitoba where we don’t have to come back and apologize to the next generation of children.”

Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine said First Nations children do better when they stay connected to their community and culture.

“Every child in Manitoba should have support to thrive and we know the current child welfare system needs to be better. First Nations are best placed to care for their own children and today’s declaration is an important step forward as we work collaboratively to return responsibility for child welfare,” she said in a news release.

The province noted this new agreement is in line with the Calls to Action for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada – which wants fewer Indigenous children in child welfare, as well as Indigenous governments to maintain their own agencies.

It is also in step with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples the province said, giving Indigenous families and communities the responsibility to raise and educate children.

“Our language, culture, and traditional ways of life will serve as the foundation for our programming,” said Brokenhead Ojibway Nation Chief Gordon Bluesky in a news release.

“We will ensure our people have access to adequate capital infrastructure to support their needs. We will continue to uplift and support one another as we exercise our treaty and inherent rights, creating our child and family services law that will benefit future generations to come.”

The province said 91 per cent of the 8,990 children in care in Manitoba are Indigenous as of March 23, 2023.

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