‘A gigantic step backwards’: Manitoba chiefs criticize Quebec’s Bill C-92 challenge


Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s government is challenging the constitutionality of federal Bill C-92, legislation that comes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020 and is intended to give jurisdiction over Indigenous children back to Indigenous communities. File photo.

The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) of Manitoba is calling out the Quebec, saying it’s “very disturbed” the province is challenging the constitutionality of Bill C-92, An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families.

“Countless Inquiries, Commissions, and reports have consistently stated that First Nations must control child and family services for their community members,” it says.

“Quebec’s challenge casts a long shadow of doubt and mistrust on the capacity of First Nations to care for their own children,” the organization states in a release, “which is a major hindrance and potentially a gigantic step backwards from the ongoing work and efforts of First Nations at reducing the number of their children-in-care that are growing up without a connection to family and community.”

The bill promises a large overhaul to the First Nations, Métis, and Inuk child welfare system. It comes into effect on Jan. 1.

The Quebec government became the first province to challenge the bill. Quebec says C-92 infringes on its provincial jurisdiction.

But SCO criticizes this reasoning and suggests Quebec is putting politics ahead of children’s welfare.

“Here we are at the end of 2019, bickering over who has jurisdiction over the lives of innocent First Nations children,” Grand Chief Jerry Daniels says.

“Quebec’s Premier should be ashamed to push Quebec’s jurisdictional agenda ahead of that of First Nations children, who are sadly amongst Canada’s most vulnerable. Mr. Francois Legault must drop his challenge at once and not be an obstacle to children regaining their identity and a strong sense of self. First Nations will continue to be the ones who define what appropriate care looks like for our own children and communities.”

The Assembly of First Nations’ (AFN) Regional Chief for Labrador and Quebec, Ghislain Picard, has also criticized the province’s decision to challenge the bill.

SCO was founded in 1999 and represents 34 First Nations in Manitoba.

Quebec’s Court of Appeal has yet to address the challenge.

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