National Aboriginal Day 2017
National Aboriginal Day is held annually on June 21st and was first proclaimed in 1996. This is a day when we can all join in recognizing the unique heritage, culture and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
In light of National Aboriginal Day, we recommit to support and collaborate with Indigenous communities in bettering the health, well-being and life chances of Indigenous children in Ontario. As at March 31, 2017, Indigenous families accounted for 5% of the total open protection files at the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society (KHCAS). In addition, for this point in time, approximately 6% of children and youth in the care of KHCAS (including those receiving Continued Care and Support for Youth) have Indigenous heritage.
This year, several steps have been, or are being, taken in the field of child welfare to support recommendations outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. These include continued commitment from local agencies to implement strategies from an agreed upon Reconciliation Framework, participation in a provincial acknowledgement and apology to Indigenous people, continued engagement of Indigenous youth and the development of three child welfare performance indicators related to Indigenous services and ongoing advocacy.
The new Child, Youth and Family Services Act, which was recently passed by the Ontario Legislature, is another step forward along this path. The Act acknowledges that systemic racism and colonialism have played a role in the child welfare system for Indigenous peoples. As a result, one of the key goals of the Act is to make services more inclusive and culturally appropriate for all children, youth and families.
Another important step in the reconciliation process and a priority of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the restoration of jurisdiction for the provision of child welfare services. As recently as April of this year, Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services assumed responsibility as the recognized child welfare authority for seven Lake Huron North Shore First Nations.
At the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society, we work closely with Hiawatha First Nation and Curve Lake First Nation to ensure that the unique needs of these communities are met. The work of this Society is guided by the Protocol Concerning the Delivery of Child and Family Services between The Chippewa First Nations of Beausoleil and Georgina Island, The Mississauga First Nations of Alderville, Curve Lake, Scugog Island and Hiawatha and The Pottawatomi First Nation of Moose Deer Point.
Over the past several years, Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child and Family Services (DBCFS) has also been moving through the designation process to become a mandated child welfare authority. When designation is achieved, it will mean that all child welfare services for Indigenous families in the Central East Region (with the exception of members of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and Curve Lake First Nation) will be serviced by DBCFS.
We welcome the changes that are taking place in the field of child welfare. We view them as opportunities to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones as we collaborate with Indigenous partners to better the health and well-being of children in this province.