Edmonton, Alberta – February 20, 2018 – Today marks an important development for First Nations children caught up in the Alberta Child Welfare system. The opening of The Nations of Treaty 8 Urban Child and Family Services Office (T8 Urban CFS) is a significant first step towards re-uniting children with their culture, heritage and communities.
In 2015, a Report to Canada’s Premiers noted that in Alberta, 9% of the child population is
Aboriginal, and 69% of children in care are Aboriginal. This over-representation of Aboriginal children has been an issue that the Chiefs of Treaty 8 [Alberta] have long been vocal about trying to find solutions.
The T8 Urban CFS is a multi-phased and multi-year pilot program made possible by funding from the federal Department of Indigenous Services. It will begin by providing training and support to existing Designated First Nations Agencies (DFNA), before moving towards re-uniting children with their culture and communities. In partnership with the Alberta Ministry of Children’s Services, the Treaty 8 Urban Child and Family Services office will assume management of Treaty 8 children’s case files from Alberta Children’s Services. The final phase is to develop First Nations own jurisdiction and legislation to ensure that Treaty 8 people and communities are responsible for caring for Treaty 8 children.
“This is an historic event for Treaty 8 and it is important that we acknowledge that it was the Elders who have long advocated for this to happen.
“Since Indian Residential Schools, Elders, many of whom did not live to see this day come to pass, have asked us to bring our children home,” states Erica Jagodzinsky, Chairman of Treaty 8 Urban CFS.
Erica also adds, “I acknowledge and thank the Treaty 8 DFNA directors who have worked so diligently to honour the wishes of our Elders.
“They have recognized that as Indigenous Peoples we need to make sure that all of our children are looked after, regardless of where they live. It is our duty to make sure they are in touch with their culture, traditions and communities. This new office will make sure of that.”
While the T8 Urban CFS office is finally becoming a reality, it has been challenging to get it off the ground. “I also recognize and acknowledge that this would not have been possible without the help of the Department of Indigenous Services and the Ministry of Children’s Services, specifically Minister Bennett and Minister Larivee, both of whom understood and supported this work,” states Chief Rupert Meneen, Grand Chief of Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta before continuing, “we are now looking forward to continue working with Minister Larivee on this necessary step forward for self-determination of our children’s futures.”
When it comes to the over-representation of First Nations children in care, “our office plans to tackle the problem head on.
“By working with the DFNA directors, many of whom have already been working hard on this issue for years, we are equipped to provide support, training and offer programs to assist workers, parents and staff to address the real world problems they face,”
states Darin Keewatin, Executive Director of the Nations of Treaty 8 Urban Child & Family Services Office.
But the long-term plan of the office goes further than that, with the goal of assuming case management stewardship and responsibility for Treaty 8 [Alberta] children in care from the Province. Darin continues, “we need to make sure First Nations people and leadership have a much more active role in the lives of our children in care, re-unifying them with their community, culture, and heritage. The Elders have taught us that we have a collective responsibility, as First Nations, to take care of our children no matter where they are.”
Looking ahead, the Chiefs of Treaty 8 recognize the only way to make a difference is by continuing to pursue this new vision they have for the future.
“The Chiefs of Treaty 8 continue to support the hard work our agencies and DFNA directors do in order to address the needs of our families and children. We recognized that we need to lead the way in helping the high number of our children in care and the best way to do this is to establish our own jurisdiction and legislation, made by and for Treaty 8 citizens. This Treaty 8 Urban office is a small but concrete step towards taking care of our own children and families on and off reserve,” concludes Grand Chief Meneen.