Jerry Daniels has a lot of priorities for his second term as the grand chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) in Manitoba.
Improving health outcomes, supporting families, bringing children home, reducing the number of Indigenous peoples incarcerated and tackling the meth crisis are just some of the issues Daniels hopes to address.
Daniels, who is from Long Plain First Nation in Manitoba, was recently acclaimed for another three-year term as grand chief of the SCO.
SCO represents 34 First Nations in Manitoba.
His acclamation in January 2020 was historic.
It was the first time the role went uncontested, a vote of confidence in the job he has been doing, according to Daniels.
First Nations, Metis and Inuit control over the child welfare system is something Daniels has been a strong advocate for.
Daniels says the system has failed.
“We want control of the system in our jurisdiction but we don’t want their policies. We want to be able to give our grandmothers and the women in our communities the power to support one another,” says Daniels.
Daniels was raised by his grandparents which had a “hugely significant role” on his upbringing.
“My grandparents were healers. They were spiritual people. They laid the foundation for me,” says Daniels.
Daniels is hopeful the federal government’s Bill C-92, lives up to its goal of reworking the Indigenous child welfare system and reducing the number of First Nation, Metis and Inuit children in care.
The grand chief says the federal government has to make a large investment in the legislation.
“It needs to address the decades old deficit of under funding. Our children, haven’t been given the same amount of opportunity, the same amount of support,” says Daniels. “Our children, haven’t been given the same amount of opportunity, the same amount of support. None of the children who are born into this world are wanting to be involved or incarcerated or live in poverty or be discriminated against by the institutions around them but this is the reality that we are faced with.”
But Daniels says that one piece of legislation and money is not all that it is going to take to address the high number of Indigenous children in care.
“It’s going to take societal change. And hopefully Canadian change in terms of their values and the way that they look at Indigenous people. Because we can’t be seen as a burden,” he says. “We have to be seen as a vibrant part of the Canadian society and we need to be working as partners, not as people who are considered to be in the way of progress.
“We are part of progress, we are part of sustainable progress and that is lasting and I hope that Canadians understand that.”