Cowessess First Nation signs $39M deal to implement child welfare system


Cowessess First Nation is located 160 km east of Regina. Photo courtesy: Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.

Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan has signed onto a $38.7-million deal to assert jurisdiction over its own child welfare system.

The announcement, called the Coordination Deal, was made Tuesday afternoon in the community with Chief Cadmus Delorme, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.

It’s the first of this kind of agreement under the federal government’s law that allows First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities to take control of their child welfare laws.

“Today is an example of how reconciliation is possible in Canada,” Delorme said in the government release. “For over a year, over many long hours, Cowessess First Nation was empowered to exercise our full jurisdiction over our Nation’s children, youth, and families, to lead in creating the vision and design of a child welfare system that reflects our culture, values, and priorities, and to lead all discussions on the transition plan outlined in our Coordination Agreement. Our discussions weren’t always easy; turning the page on past injustices that we all inherited never is.

“But with Cowessess First Nation in the driver’s seat, supported by our federal and provincial partners who worked hard to enable our vision, today we stand ready to enter a new chapter of our history that will bring new support, hope, and opportunity to Cowessess First Nation children and youth. Our Agreement commits each government to their role in our healing journey and this new chapter, as one braid of sweetgrass.”

The money in the agreement will be spent over two years and empower the community to write its own laws. According to a release from the federal government, the province will continue to oversee child welfare issues off reserve.

Cowessess First Nation, located 150 km east of Regina, was in the news recently after it announced the discovery of 751 unmarked graves in a graveyard near the Marieval Indian Residential School.

More to come.

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