Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott began a two-day emergency meeting on child welfare in Ottawa Thursday by saying she was not there to assign blame.
“It is about acknowledging the severity and importance of the crisis and determining how each of us can be part of the solution, part of the urgent need for reform, to keep children and families together,” Philpott told the roughly 340 delegates in attendance.
The Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) sent its own delegation. It represents 49 First Nations in northern Ontario.
NAN Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum put the crisis in her territory into perspective on Nation to Nation.
“Since I’ve had this file, which hasn’t been long, compared to the crisis regarding our children, I have found out that we have had six children die in care since January 2014. Six children who were in foster care or a group home,” she said.
Achneepineskum also pointed out the long-term harm done to children in care.
“They are so disconnected from their family and from their community that they are totally lost,” she said.
In Ontario, there are nearly 14,000 children in care.
However, Ontario has not kept track of which of those are Indigenous children. It plans to do so starting on February 5.
Ontario’s Minister of Child and Family Services Michael Coteau said his province is committed to First Nations control of child care.
“First Nations communities never released the authority for others to protect or govern over their children,” he said.
However, he doesn’t know when that will happen.
As well, Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson appeared on N2N.
He talked about a new Senate committee on the Arctic that will start when Parliament resumes next week.
Also, he will soon be visiting all 25 communities in Nunavut, to get feedback on everything from food security to oil and gas to development and concerns over the upcoming legalization of marijuana.
Patterson said this is being done ahead of Ottawa’s work on a new Arctic policy.
“It’s really important that residents of the Arctic have input into the development of this arctic policy by our federal government,” he said.