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Indian Child Welfare And Family Services

The FSIN is extremely upset with federal inaction and underfunding in the area of Indian child welfare and related family services in Saskatchewan.

Vice-Chief Tom Iron, Chairperson of the FSIN Health and Social Development Commission, points out that this has been the pattern for over ten years.

During the last decade a number of Indian controlled Indian Child Welfare and Family Services (ICFS) were established throughout Canada with the exception of Saskatchewan. An Indian Affairs moratorium prevented the development of ICFS agencies in Saskatchewan.

In the latter part of 1989 the Federal Government announced an end to this moratorium and the provision of planning dollars for Indian Nations and Tribal Councils. Very quickly Saskatchewan Indian governments entered into planning activities and eagerly anticipated the development of their own ICFS agencies.

After generating the enthusiasm of Indian governments, Indian Affairs has recently announced that it is unable to continue to fund the planning phase until next year at best.

"Once again", according to Vice-Chief Iron, "...the federal government is arbitrarily controlling the nature and pace of yet another vital initiative of the Treaty Indian Nations of Saskatchewan."

At issue is a unilateral funding formula imposed by the department of Indian Affairs; one which has been soundly rejected by the Indian governments of Saskatchewan.

In addition, INAC is expecting any new Indian child welfare agencies to operate and deliver services on a seriously inadequate funding cap while at the same time, federal provincial transfer arrangements on child welfare and family services have no such limitation.

Vice-Chief Iron emphasizes that "this discriminatory practice by INAC must be stopped immediately."

"The department's policies are a serious deterrent to the development of Indian controlled structures and programs at a time when everybody including the provincial government, child welfare experts, and other federal officials recognize that the answers and solutions lie within Indian child welfare and family services agencies."

The FSIN demands that Canada lift this latest moratorium on the development of Indian child welfare and family services and structures. As well, the FSIN insists that the federal government respect and fulfil its Treaty, Trust and fiduciary responsibilities.

Under the current INAC approach, the FSIN is convinced that the inadequate and delayed federal funding is designed to set up Indian child welfare agencies for failure.

"Indian Nations reject this, the province of Saskatchewan disagrees with this, and experts in the field are dismayed with this situation," states Vice-Chief Iron.

"The only thing that First Nations and Canada have agreed upon is that Indian people have the right to care for and be responsible for their children. Beyond, that there has been little progress."

"There is a real sense of frustration and urgency felt by Indian people and the Indian leadership to establish Indian controlled agencies and services."

"Many of our parents and leaders are faced with the reality that a good number of Indian children are forced into homes or settings which are culturally insensitive, absent of the Indian value system, and which have non-Indian foster parents."

"Many of the homes approved by the province, were charged with abusing the children in their care. Approximately 70% of these children were Indian. This is deplorable and unacceptable."

Vice-Chief Iron and the Health and Social Development Commission have called upon the federal Indian Affairs Minister, Tom Siddon, to correct the problems at hand and to ensure that appropriate planning and development funds are in the hands of Indian governments on an immediate and continuing basis.