After years of community consultation and hard work, the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations of Treaty 3 will see their own child protection laws come into force in the new year.
The Customary Care Code, which was confirmed at a special First Nation meeting in 2017, will have the force of federal law, as provided for in landmark Bill C-92 regarding Indigenous child welfare authorities. .
“This law is one that was passed down from generation to generation before other laws came into force, and it is about life and how people help and support each other, especially with their children. ‘It is about preserving families and communities, “said Adolphus Cameron, executive director of the Wabaseemoong Child Welfare Authority.
“There are two things we’re going to focus on: preserving families; and following the healing process for everyone, especially starting with our children.”
Code to help the community heal from colonialism
The continued impacts of the residential school system, the Sixties Scoop, the Northern Adoption Project, and the welfare system – all of which served to separate Indigenous children from their families – eroded traditional laws, social structures and governments that oversaw issues related to children and families, Cameron said.
“Our community has gone through a lot of historical trauma and has persevered. But the impact of this trauma is now affecting our children, so we hope that in the future our children will not have to endure the pain that this trauma has left behind. with them, our community, ”he said.
The work of the First Nation to have full authority over its own child protection system has long been ongoing.
In 1990, the Wabaseemoong Band Council passed a resolution prohibiting Children’s Aid Societies from entering the reserve in an effort to prevent the continued removal of First Nation children.
This led the First Nation to become the first community to be an on-reserve mandated children’s aid society in Ontario, with its leadership playing a key role in the creation of the Ojibway Tribal Family Services, which provided a managed alternative. Aboriginal people to traditional child protection. system.
This organization closed its doors in 2001 when it ceased to receive direct government funding, but was replaced a few years later by Anishinaabe Abinooji Family Services (AAFS), who has the provincial mandate to provide child protection services. and prevention at 14 First Nations of the northern region. of Treaty 3.
The community considers the code and the manuals that accompany it as sacred because it is the knowledge of our elders that is contained in these documents.– Adolphus Cameron, Executive Director of the Wabaseemong Child Protection Agency
Then, in 2011, Wabaseemoong regained jurisdiction over its own child and family services when it entered into a service agreement with AAFS to delegate its responsibilities to the First Nation, creating the Wabaseemoong Child Welfare Authority. .
According to Cameron, it was at this point that the First Nation began intensive discussions within the community “on traditional child-rearing and self-help practices.”
The code, which was completed in 2017, was “driven by the community, and in particular the elders. is contained in these documents, ”Cameron said.
Since then, the First Nation has “done some training on it, got to know it, understand it, and how we can provide services on it.”
Care code to “have the force of federal law”
On January 1, 2020, Bill C-92 An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families entry into force, which recognized the jurisdiction of Indigenous peoples over child and family services as part of their right to self-government.
Under the new legislation, an “Indigenous governing body” can exercise jurisdiction over child and family services and its own laws will prevail over federal, provincial or territorial laws if they have an agreement with them. provincial and federal governments, or if “reasonable efforts to reach an agreement were made during the 12 month period.
Cameron said when the legislation came into effect, the First Nation “submitted our code for enforcement by the federal government.”
“On January 8, we will implement our code.”
A press release stated that “the Independent Wabaseemoong Nations will continue to work with their federal and provincial partners on the implementation of the Code and a coordination agreement between the parties.”
As the First Nation calls it a historic announcement, Cameron reflected on the long process.
“One of the sad things is that the elders who contributed so much to this have now passed away, and for their dreams to come true, I wish they were here.”
“But I’m pretty sure they’re here in spirit, and that’s one of the things we care about about our documents. They are very sacred to us, because that’s what they give us. It’s their knowledge and it’s their legacy, ”Cameron said.