B.C. proposes legislative changes to give Indigenous communities power over own child welfare system


Changes coming to provincial legislation will clear the way for Indigenous communities in B.C. to have jurisdiction over their own children and family services.

Cowichan Tribes Coun. Stephanie Atleo said the amendments recognize the inherent right of Indigenous nations to protect, care for and nurture member children. 

“These changes represent a significant step toward reconciliation by recognizing for the last 150 years, the laws and policies regarding Indigenous children and child welfare have had a severe impact on Indigenous families, including our Cowichan families,” said Atleo. “Cowichan Tribes is in the best position to protect our children through stabilizing and protecting families.”

The modernized legislation will support the right of Indigenous communities to re-establish, develop and exercise child-welfare laws and recreate their own models for delivering family support, child protection and adoption services.

The minister of children and family development said the changes align with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action and will help end the epidemic of Indigenous children and youth in care.

“Indigenous Peoples have long told government the current child welfare system is a continuation of harmful colonial practices,” said Mitzi Dean. 

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said the legislation cannot be passed soon enough.

“The colonial era of the Province controlling child welfare must come to an end,” he said. “It brings me incredible joy to think about this change in my lifetime and for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

According to the province, B.C. is the first province in Canada to expressly recognize the inherent right of Indigenous communities to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services.

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