Child welfare

Learn how the Government of Canada is responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action 1 to 5.

1. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care by:

  1. Monitoring and assessing neglect investigations.
  2. Providing adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together where it is safe to do so, and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments, regardless of where they reside.
  3. Ensuring that social workers and others who conduct child-welfare investigations are properly educated and trained about the history and impacts of residential schools.
  4. Ensuring that social workers and others who conduct child-welfare investigations are properly educated and trained about the potential for Aboriginal communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing.
  5. Requiring that all child-welfare decision makers consider the impact of the residential school experience on children and their caregivers.

What's happening?

The Government of Canada has made historic investments to better support the well-being of children and families on reserve, improve the quality of education for First Nations children and urgently address housing needs on reserve. These investments include Budget 2016 funding of $635 million over 5 years and ongoing, as a first step in addressing funding gaps in First Nations Child and Family Services and provide greater support for culturally appropriate prevention services and front-line service delivery. Budget 2018 announced additional funding of $1.4 billion over 6 years, starting in fiscal year 2017 to 2018, for the First Nations Child and Family Services Program to address the funding pressures facing child and family service agencies, while increasing prevention resources so that children are safe and families can stay together. To support the safety and well-being of First Nations children and families living on reserve, Indigenous Services Canada is focused on fully implementing the orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, including reimbursement of funding to First Nations child and family services agencies based on actual costs for prevention, intake and investigation, legal fees, building repairs and small agencies in the best interest of the child, as well as reforming the First Nations Child and Family Services Program. These solutions, however, are multi-faceted and will require collaboration with First Nations partners, the provinces and territories to ensure that the well-being of children comes first.

The Government of Canada will continue to collaborate with First Nations, Inuit and Métis, as well as other partners, to advance the reforms to child and family services that are needed and develop Indigenous-led solutions that put the well-being of children first. For example: $1 million in funding was provided to the Métis National Council to support their work on engagement and consultation to advance culturally appropriate reform.

The government is also engaged in over 80 Recognition of Indigenous Rights and Self-Determination discussions tables through which Canada and Indigenous groups explore new ideas and ways to reach agreements that will recognize the rights of Indigenous groups and advance their vision of self-determination for the benefit of their communities and all Canadians. In many of the existing discussions Indigenous groups have identified child and family services as an important subject for discussion.

2. We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, to prepare and publish annual reports on the number of Aboriginal children (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) who are in care, compared with non-Aboriginal children, as well as the reasons for apprehension, the total spending on preventive and care services by child-welfare agencies, and the effectiveness of various interventions.

What's happening?

Indigenous Services Canada hosted an emergency meeting on child and family services in January 2018 to discuss how to work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis to transform Indigenous child welfare so that it is truly child-centered, community-directed and focused on prevention and the rights of the child. This meeting brought together federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners to discuss reform as well as how to collectively monitor and report on our efforts as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. This meeting was an opportunity, among other things, to take stock on the current situation and identify key next steps. Key topics of discussion included the collection and publication of data, establishing measurable goals and information sharing on Indigenous children in care in Canada.

As of fall 2018, the Government of Canada is working with provinces, territories and Indigenous partners to develop a data and reporting strategy that will help provide a more complex picture of the outcomes of children in care and the challenges experienced by Indigenous children and family, to inform future service delivery improvements.

3. We call upon all levels of government to fully implement Jordan's Principle.

What's happening?

Since 2016, the Government has made available $679.9 million to Jordan's Principle to help with health, social and education services that are needed right away.

Between July 2016 and July 31, 2019, more than 341,000 products, services and supports were approved under Jordan's Principle. These include mental health supports, medical equipment, speech therapy, educational supports and more.

Indigenous Service Canada (ISC) is fully committed to implementing Jordan's Principle and complying with the orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. ISC continues to monitor and track compliance with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal orders and is working with partners to improve processes to review and assess Jordan's Principle requests and to implement a coordinated care system.

ISC will continue to reach out to First Nations families, health providers and provincial or territorial partners to raise awareness of Jordan's Principle through a proactive communications and marketing approach.

On September 18, 2018, the Government of Canada, in partnership with the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, announced that an Inuit-specific Child First Initiative and framework is under development and that interim measures are available for Inuit families to submit requests to ISC on behalf of Inuit children requiring access to the health, social and education products, services and supports they need.

To ensure that First Nations children continue to have access to the services that they need, Budget 2019 announced $1.2 billion over 3 years, beginning in fiscal year 2019 to 2020. During that time, the Government of Canada and First Nations will continue to work together to develop a long-term approach to improving services for First Nations children, based on Jordan's Principle.

In addition, to address the immediate needs of Inuit children, Budget 2019 announced to invest $220 million over 5 years, beginning in fiscal year 2019 to 2020, to provide services to Inuit children as work continues with Inuit and other government partners to improve local capacity to deliver services.

4. We call upon the federal government to enact Aboriginal child-welfare legislation that establishes national standards for Aboriginal child apprehension and custody cases and includes principles that:

  1. Affirm the right of Aboriginal governments to establish and maintain their own child-welfare agencies.
  2. Require all child-welfare agencies and courts to take the residential school legacy into account in their decision making.
  3. Establish, as an important priority, a requirement that placements of Aboriginal children into temporary and permanent care be culturally appropriate.

What's happening?

The Government of Canada has been engaging with partners across the country on how to reform the Indigenous child welfare. As part of this process, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) engaged with First Nations, Inuit and Métis, as well as Treaty Nations and provincial and territorial governments to co-develop options for potential federal legislation that would set the stage for comprehensive reform. Sixty-five engagement sessions were held over the summer and fall of 2018 with nearly 2,000 participants. ISC will continue to advance this work in partnership with Indigenous peoples.

In addition to these efforts, the Government of Canada has committed to 6 points of action:

  • continuing the work to fully implement all orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and reforming child and family services including moving to a flexible funding model: Canada has begun implementing the orders and has, for example, been funding agencies for their actual costs in the areas ordered by the tribunal and has formed a Consultation committee on Child Welfare Reform
  • shifting the programming focus to prevention and early intervention: Canada is working with partners to fundamentally change the system to be truly child-centered, community-directed and focused on prevention
  • supporting communities to draw down jurisdiction and explore the potential for co-developed federal child and family services legislation: as mentioned above, ISC has been engaging with partners over the summer and early fall 2018
  • accelerating the work of trilateral and technical tables that are in place across the country: tripartite tables, technical working groups and regional advisory committees are in place in each province and the Yukon. Canada is working with partners to accelerate the work of these initiatives in support of reform
  • supporting Inuit and Métis Nation leadership to advance culturally appropriate reform: Permanent Bilateral Mechanism forums have been established respectively between Canada and the Métis Nation and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, as well as the Assembly of First Nations, to provide a distinction-based forum to jointly set priorities for reform and oversee outcomes
  • developing a data and reporting strategy with provinces, territories and Indigenous partners: Canada is working with partners to develop a data and reporting strategy that will help provide a more complete picture of the outcomes of children in care and the challenges experienced by Indigenous children and families, to inform future service delivery improvements

It is critical that these efforts are being led by Indigenous leaders and communities in alignment with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. Articles 3 and 4 on the right to self-determination and self-government in particular are relevant to these efforts.

On June 21, 2019, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-92, an Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, received Royal assent. Co-developed with Indigenous partners, Bill C-92 affirms Indigenous peoples' inherent right to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services and is consistent with the Government of Canada's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The bill affirms the rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services and establish national principles, such as best interests of the child, cultural continuity and substantive equality to guide the interpretation and administration of the bill. These principles would guide Indigenous communities and provinces and territories on the delivery of child and family services to keep families together and reduce the number of Indigenous children in care.

5. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs for Aboriginal families.

What's happening?

With the creation of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), the platform now exists to bring together a range of supports for maternal child health, Aboriginal Head Start, family violence prevention and other programs. This will allow us to break down silos and better support the health and well-being of Indigenous children, parents and communities.

Budget 2016 investments of $634.8 million over 5 years and ongoing were provided to support greater culturally appropriate prevention services and front-line service delivery. To ensure adequate funding for the ongoing provision of culturally appropriate prevention, protection and well-being services for First Nations children and families on reserve, Budget 2018 committed more than $1.4 billion in new funding over 6 years, starting in fiscal year 2017 to 2018, for First Nations child and family services. This includes a dedicated Community Well-Being and Jurisdiction Initiatives stream of funding to support First Nations communities to lead the development and delivery of prevention services and to assert greater control over the well-being of their children and families.

The Government of Canada will continue to collaborate with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation, as well as other partners, to advance the reforms to child and family services that are needed and develop Indigenous-led solutions that put the well-being of children first, in addition to collaborating with the Métis National Council in taking steps to explore solutions that will be community-directed and focused on prevention.

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