Troubled Manitoba FN child welfare agency enters into co-management agreement

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
A Manitoba child welfare agency plunged into turmoil after the political intervention of First Nation chiefs is now being co-managed by its umbrella organization.

The First Nations of Northern Manitoba Child and Family Services Authority—known as the Northern Authority—announced Thursday it entered into a co-management agreement with Island Lake First Nations Family Services.

The Northern Authority oversees First Nations child welfare agencies in northern Manitoba.

“This agreement is an important step in addressing the current challenges facing Island Lake First Nations Family Services,” said Bryan Hart, acting CEO of the Northern Authority, in the statement.

Sources previously told APTN the Island Lake child welfare agency was plunged into “chaos” after the four member chiefs of the Island Lake Tribal Council ordered the suspension of the agency’s executive director, Brenda Wood.

In mid-February, three of the four Island Lake Tribal Council Chiefs—Garden Hill First Nation Chief Dino Flett, Red Sucker Lake Chief Sam Knott, and St. Theresa Point Chief David McDougall—sent a letter to the Island Lake Family Services board directing them to place Wood on temporary paid leave and complete a report on  her “management style.” Tribal Council Chair and Wasagamack Chief Alex McDougall did not sign the letter but supported the move.

The board, which is appointed by the chief and council of each of the four communities, immediately complied despite supporting Wood’s efforts to reform the agency which has faced numerous reports highlighting serious weaknesses in its operations.

Wood was put on temporary leave and the board took over management of the agency.

Hart said in the statement the co-management agreement would focus on improving the Island Lake child welfare agency and deal with “labour management issues.”

Sources say the chiefs moved to oust Wood as a result of her efforts to reform the agency which led to the termination of several employees.

Hart said in the statement the Northern Authority and the Island Lake child welfare agency would each appoint co-executive directors to manage day-to-day operations.

“By the end of this week we expect each side will have made their appointment and both individuals will be in pace and working together as early as Monday,” said Hart, in the statement.

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