Dr. Cindy Blackstock:
Thank you, honourable members.
I'm so glad that the issue of children has joined the issue of women and motherhood. It is fundamental that children be seen within the context of their families, within the context of what it is to be a woman, and within the context of the perpetuity of a society.
There are more first nations children in child welfare care today than at the height of residential schools, by a factor of three. We believe that this is fundamentally preventable in the vast majority of cases.
The factors that drive first nations children into child welfare care are poverty, poor housing, substance misuse linked back to residential schools, and inequitable services for child and family service agencies and other services funded by the federal government on reserve.
Fundamental and central to what I'm about to say is a question of the Canadian conscience. Is it Canadian in any shape, way, or form for a government to say “no” to a child or to say a child deserves less than other children simply because of that child's race? If you think that's okay, you will see nothing but barriers to solving what I'm about to say is a solvable problem. If you don't think there's any room within Canadian society for denying children the same benefits other Canadian children enjoy simply because of their race, something that they cannot change and should not be asked to change, then you will see nothing but opportunity in solving what is a solvable problem for this generation of children.
Some people may not be aware that when it comes to child welfare, provincial and territorial laws apply on and off reserve, as a requirement by the Department of Indian Affairs. The funding is provided by the Department of Indian Affairs through a host of funding arrangements if the funding is not tied to the provincial statutes or to the needs of the children. The Auditor General has reviewed all of the various funding arrangements provided by the Department of Indian Affairs, including the much touted enhanced model, and has found them all to be inequitable and flawed. That was as of 2008.
I just came from the aboriginal affairs committee, and there were first nations child welfare agencies there that have received the enhanced funding. They are now three years into that; they are experiencing deficits running their agencies and are unable to meet the needs of their children in a comparable way.
I'm going to quickly go through some of these funding models so that you're briefed on them. I'm going to talk a little bit about Jordan's principle, and I will spend most of my time on the solutions.
There are three funding formulas currently used by the Department of Indian Affairs. One is called directive 20-1. What you need to know about that formula is that there's almost no money in that model to keep children safely in their family homes. In fact, the Department of Indian Affairs' own fact sheet on child and family services says that the funding is so badly structured and is such an inequitable amount that it drives first nations children into foster care because they aren't provided the same services as other Canadians
There's something called the enhanced model, which is really just the Indian Affairs take on the directive. It's just an adaptation of the directive. The department has said that now that we have rolled this out, this is the solution. As I just shared with you, Sheila Fraser found it to be inequitable and flawed three years ago, yet that's all the department is prepared to offer first nations children. You either take dire and inequitable under the directive, or you take flawed and inequitable under this new approach.
The third model is just about as old as I am. I am 46 years old. The third model is 45 years old. Can you imagine being funded for a child welfare practice on the basis of a model that's 45 years old? Well, that's what happens to first nations child and family service agencies in Ontario. These agencies are struggling every day to meet the unique needs of their children within their culture and context. That model too was reviewed by the Auditor General of Canada was found to be flawed and inequitable.
Now, if the best our country can do for first nations children is dire and inequitable or flawed and inequitable, I think you would all agree with me that it is insufficient for the Canadian conscience.
There's another problem, which is that our first nations children get caught in disputes between the federal government and the provincial governments about who should pay.
Jordan River Anderson was born in Norway House Cree Nation in 1999. He was medically required to stay in a hospital for two years, but after two years, he should have been medically discharged to a family home. Everything was ready for his at-home care.
If he had been non-aboriginal, he would have gone home, but Canada and the province decided to argue over each individual item related to his care, and this baby stayed in hospital unnecessarily for over two and a half years.
Doctors, social workers, and family members pleaded with the provincial and federal governments to allow this child to go home as any other child would have, but their voices were not heard; Jordan died in a hospital, never having spent a day in the family home.
The family pleaded for this not to happen to any other children, but we knew it was. We conducted a study in only 12 of the 108 first nations agencies and found that because of these disputes, 400 other children were being denied government services available to all other children.
Jordan's principle is a very simple concept. It says that when a government service is available to all other children--so these aren't services that aren't available; basically, if you were a non-aboriginal child, you'd receive them--and one of these disputes crops up, either the federal or the provincial government--whoever gets contacted by the child first--pays for the service, and they can argue about reimbursement as a secondary concern.
That was adopted by many of you, as parliamentarians, in December 2007. Some of you may remember Ernest Anderson in the gallery that day, and the standing ovation that you all gave him in recognition of his family's contribution.
I'm sad to say that the bureaucrats have reinterpreted the direction of the parliamentarians. They've narrowed Jordan's principle to now only apply to children with complex medical needs and multiple service providers, suggesting that denying children services in education and other areas is somehow okay. I would encourage you as parliamentarians to direct the bureaucrats to re-embrace the true tradition of the House.
We have Canada before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal at the moment. I say to people that a day back in February of 2007 was probably one of the saddest days of my life as a Canadian citizen, because I found myself having to file a human rights complaint against the Government of Canada because they had failed to address the inequalities in child welfare, despite there being two evidence-based solutions and despite there being billions of dollars of surplus budget or billions to be spent on stimulus projects.
The kids somehow were still at the bottom of the deck, so along with the Assembly of First Nations, we filed a human rights complaint against the Government of Canada alleging that they're racially discriminating against first nations children by underfunding child welfare and driving these kids away from their families and into non-aboriginal homes in many cases.
That case is now four years on. Why has it taken so long without a judgment? Because the Canadian government is not fighting it on the merits. They don't see fit, in this case, to put all the facts before the Canadian public and before the courts in order to have that issue resolved. They want to fight it on a legal loophole. What they're saying is they, as a federal government, only fund child welfare. Others deliver it, so it's the people who deliver it who should be held accountable for the discrimination, if there's any occurring.
That truly is splitting hairs. Can you imagine? The federal government provides very few direct services to Canadians. If that was your measure, it's the doctors who deliver the health care. If they decide to give 20% less health care to people wearing blue sweaters today, well, it's not the federal government discriminating, but the physician. That would be unacceptable and un-Canadian, and yet that is the position of the Canadian government at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
The Federal Court has refused to derail the tribunal, despite two appeals by the federal government to stop the tribunal on this “funding is not a service” issue. As well, they brought a similar motion--not to the Federal Court of Appeal, as one would expect, but back down to the tribunal to try to get it derailed on the same technicality just this last June, and we are waiting.
The other thing that the Canadian government doesn't want is for this to become part of the public consciousness. We have a campaign called “I am a witness”—you can see my button here—and we've posted all the court documents related to this case up on a website. We invite Canadians, not to support our position--because they don't know all the facts--but to listen carefully to the Government of Canada and carefully to ourselves, to read the Auditor General's report, and to make up their own minds about whether they think their country is doing the right thing for first nations children three years after the apology.
There are over 7,000 Canadians and organizations representing about 10 million Canadians following this case at the moment. It the most watched legal case in Canadian history.
Among those who came was a 14-year-old non-aboriginal girl by the name of Summer Bisson, and I bring her quote to your attention on page 8 of my brief. She came to watch Canada's last attempt to try to derail the tribunal by using the legal loophole that funding is not a service. This is what she says:
||Canada's lawyer has to come up with a good reason as to why the Tribunal should be dismissed and really there is no reason except for the fact that the government is scared, and does not want justice to be done. It's no wonder the government doesn't want this to be public. It is quite embarrassing and sad to think that our government is trying to get out of its responsibility to provide the same quality of services to First Nations children in the child welfare system as they do to non-Native children. I am a student and I am aware and I am going to make sure other youth are aware. Cindy is speaking for others who cannot speak and that is amazing. So I am going to speak for others who cannot be here today and make sure they're aware.
This is not a partisan issue. Equality is not a partisan concept. I think all of you swore oaths to stand on guard for the values that define this country the most. A testament of the nation and of your leadership is that when you know something is wrong, you can surface above your party lines and do the right thing for children. Can you say there comes a time in the history of all great nations when we have to turn the page on Canada's relationship toward first nations children from one of oppression and discrimination to one of hope and inspiration?
There are multiple solutions, which I've identified in my series of recommendations on the report, but be clear about this: Canada knows it's discriminating. It knows the harm to children. You heard from many of the mothers of those children in your briefs.
There are solutions that were jointly developed by the government, and quite frankly, if we can afford billions for fighter jets, we can afford to invest in our greatest natural resource. The World Health Organization says for each dollar you as parliamentarians spend on children, you save $7 down the line. Imagine what you could do with the $6 of savings if you were to do the right thing by first nations children today. There'd be more jobs in your regions, more accessibility to health care for an aging generation, more services for seniors, more services for women; fail to do that, and you will be using those dollars to build mental health facilities, substance misuse treatment facilities, and prisons.
It's not a question of whether you want to spend the money; it's a question of how much you want to spend and where you want to spend it. At the end of the day, it's a question of whether or not you think it's the right thing for a federal government to do to say “no” or “not quite as much” to children on the basis of race.
Thank you very much, parliamentarians.
Dr. Cindy Blackstock:
Thank you for the question.
There are two areas of inequality that aboriginal women experiencing domestic violence experience. One area is the shortfall in actual, direct government spending for services that we just talked about, as in the case of child welfare. The other big gap is in federally funded voluntary sector services, those volunteer services that federal government dollars go to for delivery of services.
In my study in 2003 I found that the average amount each Canadian receives in publicly funded voluntary sector support is about $2,400 off-reserve. The amount going to first nations for children and family services was 35¢. Think about it for a moment. How many voluntary sector services funded by the federal government did you see on your tours across the country?
That means there's a whole vacuum of services. Imagine here in Ottawa today if I cut every shelter, every food bank, every domestic violence program, and then on top of that, I underfunded child welfare services. How well do you think the citizens of this city would be doing if they're parenting in a few years? Not that well.
The other problem is in the statutes on child welfare. Over the last 15 years in particular, there's been an increasing recognition of the very real harms that domestic violence does to children. Those are legitimate concerns, and I am not underestimating that aspect. However, there is also increasing evidence, particularly out of states like New York, that when you put domestic violence into child welfare statutes as a reason for child welfare to intervene in families, they were actually not getting the reports of the most severe abuse because of women being afraid of their kids being taken away. In fact, they back-stepped on that.
One of the realities is that child welfare is not that good at responding to domestic abuse. We don't have the resources to do that. We could, within first nations agencies, retailor some of those services and reprofile them, but not on the basis of the inequitable funding we currently have.
I would encourage parliamentarians to pay attention to those two factors. Where is the federally funded money for the voluntary sector for services for violence against women going, and to what extent is that benefiting aboriginal women on reserves? The second question is this: be aware of that inclusion of domestic violence in child welfare. Are you confident, as members, that child welfare has the proper responses and supports to women and to men experiencing domestic violence in order to keep children safe? I'm not that confident about that.
Mr. Luc Desnoyers (Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, BQ):
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Ms. Blackstock. Your report is very interesting. It's also very interesting where it addresses the entire aspect of discrimination against aboriginal persons which has been around for many years.
A number of witnesses have come and told us that and described it to us from various standpoints, both for women and children and for aboriginal persons in general. We've talked about the Indian Act, which is obsolete and should be substantially amended.
When we say things have to be changed, I believe that has to be done by going way back in history and bringing it all back to the actual situation of aboriginal people today.
A number of people have come and told us that everything has to be done in the culture of the aboriginal peoples. I'm going to refer to your recommendation 5, which I would like to analyze with you. I'd like to hear you say a little more about that recommendation, which states:
|“INAC must develop in partnership with first nations in the Northwest Territories and Yukon Territories strategic measures to support the full and proper operation of first nations child and family service agencies in the territories including, but not limited to [...].”
I'd like to hear what you have to say on those strategic measures. We've had a number of groups talk to us about education, health, funding and grouping funding together. Instead of having 16 departments, they proposed they we have fewer and that the money arrive faster so that cuts can ultimately be avoided as well. From department to department, mutual cuts are being made so that there are ultimately fewer services for the aboriginal community.
In the second part, you say:
“... but not limited to, supporting culturally-based and community-based child welfare and the provision of adequate and flexible financial resources.”
What does that mean?
Dr. Cindy Blackstock:
Well, it's interesting. You can do two things as a government. One is that you can decide that you have all the solutions and only fund people according to a fixed amount. That has not served children very well in a diverse context across the country. The other is that you can do something different--that is, you can look at the particular needs of the children within the context of their family to find out what their concept of a healthy child is and then determine how you achieve that within the context of that community and that culture. Then you fund not by program, but by principle.
We are working with the British Columbia government on something called the Touchstones of Hope project. It's a project that involves working with first nations communities for their own visions of what healthy children and families are. We actually get all the community members into a hall, including the children themselves, as well as elders, youth, and parents, and we vision out what a healthy child is and what a healthy family is, because remember: one of the things that was taken from us during colonization was our ability to dream for our own children. Governments dreamt for us, and we've all seen the consequences of that, but here we are calling on communities to vision again what a healthy child is and what a healthy family is in their community, to identify the indicators of that and to look at the now, and then to look at what resources are needed to go forward.
The Province of British Columbia, I have to say, is a regular bureaucracy, much like your governments are, but they were convinced that having 80% of the children in care who are first nations in that region was no longer acceptable. It was a reason to break the rules as we had done. Now they're looking at funding those plans not according to what the Government of British Columbia thinks is a good idea for everybody; they're looking at funding those particular community plans on the basis of principle, which allows consistency across government funding but also allows for innovation at a community level that makes sense.
The Touchstone principles are these: a respect for self-determination, culture, and language; holistic response, which means working with the child not only at his or her age level, but across ages and within a context of their family, community, and nation; structural interventions, which means dealing with the factors that are beyond the ability of parents to control on their own; and non-discrimination, which we've been talking a lot about today.
That is going very well, actually. They are two years into this project. So far, the British Columbia government has noticed that we haven't quite got the number of children going into care tailing off, so we still have more work to do there, but what's happening is that the children are going home much sooner.
Why is that? Well, before, you would have four child protection workers squirreled away in an office trying to manage the situation. Now you have 100 or 200 people who came out to the session and who can now see a role for themselves as community members and as citizens to be actively engaged in the well-being of those children, and they are definitely stepping up to the plate.
We are not seeing, in any way, first nations communities sweeping under the carpet some of the real concerns in communities. In fact, we are seeing an unbelievably vital determination to conquer those, to embrace our own accountability, and to move forward. However, the underfunding by government is a definite barrier, and it needs to be addressed.
Dr. Cindy Blackstock:
Thank you for those two very important questions.
As you know, Jordan's principle applies to all government services. The Prime Minister or the government and all of parliamentarians today could say that we re-embrace the original intent of Jordan's principle that we voted for in the House of Commons; that we as a federal government will take leadership and insist that it be fully implemented; that we will pick up the tab on services, whether we think they're the provinces' or not, and we're going to keep records, because we want to be accountable to taxpayers; but that those conversations are going to be secondary to the concerns of children.
I can tell you that I know of 33 children right now who are at risk of going into foster care simply because there's a dispute between Manitoba and Canada about who should fund their in-home supports. You could stop those 33 kids from going unnecessarily into child welfare care by fully embracing and implementing Jordan's principle.
It's not an irresponsible use of taxpayers' dollars to step up to the plate on equality. In fact, when I share Jordan's story, I haven't run into one Canadian yet who thinks you should have sorted out an agreement with the province before they implemented it for Jordan. All Canadians agree: children must come first.
That is one thing that I think needs to happen. What's happening in practice is that there's a narrowing of the definition to children with multiple service providers and multiple disabilities, and it's only being implemented by the Government of Canada in what they call willing provinces. They're effectively putting agreements with the province ahead of meeting the needs of children, which is not Jordan's principle; Jordan's principle is asking for leadership from parliamentarians to meet the needs of the child and then figure out the jurisdictional stuff as a secondary concern.
The other thing is about where we go from here. It's an important question.
I'm not all about problems. It's not helpful to just say that this is where we are and that we're stuck here. We know enough about the enhanced funding formula to be able to correct those problems that were well identified by the Auditor General of Canada, and you and your committee could call the department's attention back to the 2008 report and call on the department to remedy those problems that you've heard about here, which are in the Auditor General's report and were just spoken about at the aboriginal affairs committee. That would be a fundamental positive step.
The other thing that could be done is to look at the missing elements in the enhanced formula. What we've found gives a lot of trouble is that there are not adjustments for children with special needs or with high populations. Members, I need not tell you that some of the children in child welfare have extraordinary needs. It can cost up to $60,000 a month to house some of these very special needs children. If you are an aid agency and you have one of those and there's no adjustment for that situation, that's important.
The third thing about where you go from here is—you've probably heard of the McIvor decision and those deliberations—that there has been no thought whatsoever given to the department, at least publicly, about how they're going to adjust the funding for child and family services up, so that we're not losing investments in children as we're making more use of an already very desperately limited pool.
With those things in mind, we could make a substantial gain for children and could think about whether we would like to do processes such as the Touchstones of Hope, which we have going on in northern B.C., and whether it is something we would want to make more publicly available. It's a very low-cost model. In fact, the British Columbia government, prior to our implementing this model, spent $43 million trying to renovate its approach on aboriginal child welfare, and it failed.
This approach has spent 0.0007% of that, and it is completely now run not by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, but by community members. That's because we have designed it to be sustainable at a grassroots level and to cost hardly anything to run these sessions, because we don't want the money going into the pockets of consultants; we want the investments to go to children themselves. That's another opportunity.
Dr. Cindy Blackstock:
Thank you for the question.
I think a lot of Canadians don't understand that there are multiplier effects from these inequalities that come from government services and the lack of voluntary sector services. The children served by the underfunded child welfare system are the same children caught up in Jordan's principle and the same children trying to go to school and learn.
The Auditor General, as early as a decade ago, was raising concerns about the inequality in funding for elementary and secondary education on reserves and also calling attention to the condition of the schools themselves and the many communities where there are no schools.
You mentioned Shannen Koostachin. In many ways, she is a symbol of so many first nations children across the country. She is at once a Canadian hero--someone who we all, as Canadians, should be looking up to--and also a reminder about what the consequences are if we fail to act fully and properly.
Shannen Koostachin was from Attawapiskat First Nation. She was the daughter of Andrew Koostachin and Jenny Nakogee, a very loving family.
The only school in that community was contaminated by 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel. In 2000, when Shannen was in kindergarten, the Government of Canada brought up portable trailers and put them on the playground of the contaminated school. Members, I kid you not: I can throw a pebble from here to the translation booth, and that is the distance between the kindergarten portable and the contaminated waste site.
The children were told that this portable trailer system was temporary, that the Government of Canada would do everything it needed to do to make sure they had a proper school not sitting on contaminated ground. Three ministers of Indian Affairs promised them a school and did not deliver. Shannen would later say that was one of the hardest things.
Maybe as Canadians we get used to politicians making statements and not keeping their promises, but I for one think that the minimum standard is that you keep your promises to kids. These kids could not understand it. They wanted to learn. They knew they needed an education, so Shannen Koostachin organized the younger children in the school to write letters to the government. Maybe, she thought, if you heard in their own words what it's like to try to learn in a portable trailer that is now so rundown that the heat goes off and it's 20 degrees below zero in the classroom, you would want to act, and you would find the motivation to cut across whatever you needed to do to make sure they had a chance to learn.
But those letters did not move those in authority to change that position, so she reached out to non-aboriginal children in her grade eight year, and thousands of them wrote letters. However, not even that was enough to move the Government of Canada.
She was the chairperson of her grade eight graduation committee. She received a letter from the Minister of Indian Affairs saying, “We cannot afford a new school for you, and we don't know when it will come.” She cancelled her grade eight graduation trip, and she came down here to meet with the minister herself to ask for a new school. The minister said, “We can't afford it.” She said, “I don't believe you.” She said, “School is a time for dreams.” She said, “Every kid deserves that.”
She wanted to be a lawyer so she could grow up and make a contribution to Canadians and fight for the education rights of other Canadian children. She promised the Canadian government and the children in the schools all over the country that she would never give up until every first nations child had a safe and comfy school and equitable education. She knew that when the children in Manitoba turned on the taps in their school, out came little garter snakes. She knew of other children going to school in tents, not in Africa but in Canada. She knew something could be done so that they could grow up to be lawyers and grass dancers and cooks and your pharmacist and your physician.
She had to move 500 kilometres away from her community to go to high school because the high school in her own community was so underfunded she would have no option of going to law school.
While she was there, she was with Member of Parliament Charlie Angus, whom some of you know. She went to one of the most rundown high schools. It was one of the first times Shannen Koostachin had ever stood in a hallway. He realized after a while that he was walking alone and that Shannen was lost somewhere in the school. He went back and found her in a classroom. She was touching all of the books and looking at all the wonderful things that other children have to learn. She said to Charlie, “I wish I had my life to live over again so I could go to a school as nice as this.”
Shannen Koostachin died in a car accident in the spring of 2010. She never knew what it is to be treated equitably by the Government of Canada.
We have, with her family's support, pledged to carry her dream forward with the thousands of children who support her. I would just ask—and I know that you see many important problems in your work and that there are lots of competing interests—for the conscience and the good of the country, can't we just give these kids a proper school?
What is stopping us from doing that? What possible reason would we have for Shannen today on why that type of inequality is continuing? What would we say to Jordan? What would we say to the children who are going into foster care simply because they don't get a shot at life?
Whatever your recommendations are from this committee, I ask that you keep their images in your mind. Those are the audiences. If you can convince those children that what you're doing is the right thing, then you're providing the right example for Canadians and for Canada's future.
Ms. Sheilagh Murphy:
I want to thank you for inviting Corinne and me to appear before the committee. It is a privilege for my colleague and me to be here before all of you as you continue your important work with respect to violence against aboriginal women.
Our department continues to be deeply concerned about this issue, and I appreciate this opportunity to assist the committee. However, there are many other federal and provincial programs that assist in addressing violence against aboriginal women, with first nations child and family services being one piece of a broader overall response.
The recent provincial report of the Saskatchewan child welfare review panel states that:
||Commentators and researchers are increasingly clear on the fact that the conditions which contribute most to a child's risk are conditions that the child welfare system itself often does not have the mandate or capacity to directly address. As noted earlier, we use a child welfare solution when the primary drivers are outside the child welfare mandate.
We agree with this assessment, and I think it's an important lesson to keep in mind, while we work on this issue, that there are limitations to what each piece of the overall solution can achieve on its own.
I am joined today by my colleague, Corinne Baggley, senior policy manager with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Together, Corinne and I will do our best to answer any questions the committee may have, but first I would like to begin with a few remarks.
My predecessor, Mary Quinn, appeared before this committee in April 2010 and provided you then with an overview of some of the program areas within Indian and Northern Affairs Canada that support healthier and safer aboriginal families, including INAC initiatives that specifically target violence against women. Mary also explained how INAC works in partnership with other federal departments, provinces, and aboriginal peoples to contribute to the overall response to this serious issue, particularly on-reserve, but also in aboriginal communities and urban centres.
Although I won't get into the specifics about all these programs today, I would first like to acknowledge the multiple underlying causes that may increase the risk of violence against aboriginal women, such as lack of education, unemployment, and poverty, many of which disproportionately impact aboriginal communities and women. INAC works closely with aboriginal, federal, and provincial partners to address these underlying causes and build healthier and safer aboriginal families.
As an example, the reform of INAC's first nations child and family services program on-reserve involves a shift toward enhanced prevention services and will help to support parents and keep families together, which ultimately will enhance a sense of security among women who reside on-reserve and can decrease the risk of violence.
Child welfare is one of the most complex areas of public policy, given that decisions around the care and protection of children have lasting effects on children, their families, and communities. It is important to clarify that decisions with respect to the protection of children made by child welfare authorities, including delegated first nations child and family services agencies, are made in accordance with provincial legislation and standards.
All children are protected by provincial child welfare legislation, as child and family services are matters of provincial jurisdiction. Provincial governments delegate to service providers both on- and off-reserve and are responsible for ensuring they comply with provincial legislation and standards.
In the past 20 years, the number of first nations child and family services agencies has grown considerably. Today, 106 of these agencies deliver programs under agreements with provincial child welfare authorities. The amount of funding provided by INAC through its first nations child and family services program has also increased dramatically, up from $193 million 15 years ago to $550 million last year, in 2009-10.
As provinces began to shift their approaches to focus more on the prevention end of the spectrum of services provided under child welfare, INAC followed their lead through tripartite partnerships with willing first nations and provinces. In 2007, the federal government took action to help first nations child and family services providers to improve outcomes. This included working with provinces to ensure best practices in prevention-based services were brought to reserves, as well as broadening the tool kit of culturally appropriate services, such as kinship care. Over time, INAC's new approach to funding first nations child and family services, which we call the enhanced prevention focused approach, will enable first nations child and family services agencies to help keep families together.
Under this new approach, the agencies will have the flexibility and funding they require to ensure enhanced prevention services are available to at-risk children and families before a situation escalates into one that requires protection.
Three years ago, INAC developed a tripartite framework with the province and the first nations of Alberta to implement an enhanced prevention focused approach known as the Alberta Response Model. It focuses on proactive intervention, namely providing appropriate services before the problems escalate and become a child protection matter.
The preliminary results of this approach have been positive and encouraging. In the past three years, for instance, the number of Alberta first nations children in care on-reserve has dropped, permanent placements are on the rise, and placements in institutional facilities are decreasing. These significant results are attributed to a delivery system that is also facilitating greater use of more appropriate types of placements for children, including kinship care and post-adoption subsidies. Kinship care is an option that is used when children are removed from their home and placed in the care of a family member.
Since establishing the first tripartite framework in Alberta, partners in Manitoba, Quebec, P.E.I., Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia have also collaborated to conclude tripartite frameworks on first nations child and family services. This means that the new prevention funding model is now being implemented in first nations communities in six provinces and is reaching 69% of first nations children who live on-reserve. Each framework now provides for specific prevention-based funding for first nations agencies to deliver or purchase on-reserve prevention-based services.
In the last four federal budgets, the Government of Canada has committed additional funding to implement these enhanced prevention-focused approaches. When fully implemented, this funding will provide over $100 million annually in additional funding for the new approach under the six framework agreements.
I also want to say that INAC is strongly committed to and continues to work with all remaining jurisdictions toward securing tripartite frameworks by 2013.
This government recognizes that effective and culturally appropriate child and family services play an important role in creating strong and healthy first nations families. Moreover, we will continue to collaborate with willing partners to fund these services in first nations communities across Canada. This is why we remain committed to implementing a prevention focused approach by means of tripartite partnerships with first nations and the provinces.
Issues that impact the quality of life of first nations are not the responsibility of only one group. This is a shared responsibility.
It is clear that there are no simple solutions to the unfortunate ongoing situation of violence against aboriginal women, because it is a complex and multi-faceted issue. It is, however, my hope that moving forward with responsive and positive changes with such programs as on-reserve child and family services will go some way in helping first nations families to access the services they need before a situation escalates, and will help keep first nations families together.
Thank you. My colleague and I will do our best to answer your questions.
Mr. Luc Desnoyers:
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I realize that the witness is reading a document or a number of documents related to our questions. Would it be possible to have a copy of those documents? She's giving us answers that appear in her document.
My questions are as follows. In your introductory speech, you mentioned that what might increase the risk of violence against aboriginal women is, among other things, low education levels, unemployment and poverty. Would it be possible to have a written answer on what the department has done on those three issues to improve the plight of the various aboriginal communities?
Then, on page 4, you say that “106 agencies deliver programs under agreements with provincial child welfare authorities.” Would it be possible to have a list of those groups and the extent to which they are subsidized?
I'd like to have one or more copies of the agreements that have been signed between the provincial and federal levels with regard to enhanced prevention, as you call it—which is a new term we've just learned—in the aboriginal communities.
On page 4 of your report, you state that, in 2007, “the federal government took action to help first nations child and family services providers to improve outcomes.” Have there been any substantial improvements as a result of this approach since 2007?
On page 5, you state: “In the past three years, for instance, the number of Alberta first nations children in care on reserve has dropped; permanent placements are on the rise.”
This is somewhat the same question as my colleague, what is—