Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs calling for change after newborn seized by CFS last week

One week after a video of a baby being taken from its mother at a Winnipeg hospital went viral on social media, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is making a call for change.

“The true sadness about that is it’s just one,” said Grand Chief Arlen Dumas. “These illegal apprehensions are happening every day.”

Dumas wants the restoration of First Nations jurisdiction over families and children. This would mean newborns would be placed with immediate family if the mother, father or both is unable to care for the child or within the family’s community so it can be raised in an Indigenous household.

“It’s supposed to be the communities affiliated with the children that are supposed to be working with those families, but at the moment you have Winnipeg CFS and all these other entities,” said Dumas.

He said babies will continue to be taken from their families if nothing changes.

“Things can change today. Things can change immediately.”

PROVINCE WORKING ON CHANGING CFS ACT

A spokesperson with the Manitoba Government said the province is in the process of making an amendment to the Child and Family Services Act.

They said before the province fully endorses legislation that would include customary care, it has to develop regulations in consultation with the three Indigenous authorities.

“That is ongoing and we want to get it right,” said the spokesperson in an email to CTV News.

FEDS GETTING READY TO TABLE LEGISLATION

Meanwhile, the federal government said it’s working on reducing the number of Indigenous children in foster care. Across Canada, 52 per cent of children under the age of 14 in foster care are Indigenous, a number that is much higher in Manitoba.

A spokesperson for Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services said legislation will be introduced in the House of Commons in the next few weeks to address this issue.

The spokesperson told CTV News that the legislation would lay down a set of principles which would change the way CFS interacts with Indigenous children in care. They said it would also recognize the inherent right First Nations have over their children and families, and would open up the door for the community to pass its own laws.

Last January, the federal government committed to six points of action to address the over-representation of Indigenous children and youth in care in Canada, which include:

  1. Continuing the work to fully implement all orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, and reforming child and family services including moving to a flexible funding model;
  2. Shifting the programming focus to prevention and early intervention;
  3. Supporting communities to exercise jurisdiction and explore the potential for co-developed federal child and family services legislation;
  4. Accelerating the work of trilateral and technical tables that are in place across the country;
  5. Supporting Inuit and Métis Nation leadership to advance culturally-appropriate reform;
  6. Developing a data and reporting strategy with provinces, territories and Indigenous partners.