First Nations Child Welfare in Saskatchewan (2011)

Author(s): 
Anna Kozlowski, Vandna Sinha, Gail Hartsook, Shelley Thomas & H.Monty Montgomery

This information sheet presents an overview of the current structure of First Nations child welfare in Saskatchewan as it was in 2011. It builds on work done for the First Nations component of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (FNCIS-2008), a collaboration between university researchers and representatives of major Aboriginal child welfare organizations, to analyze, contextualize and disseminate research investigations involving First Nations children included in the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and neglect (Sinha, et al., 2011). Basic information about the structure of First Nations child welfare was compiled in order to contextualize FNCIS-2008 findings. FNCIS-2008 advisory committee members completed 2-page information sheets consisting of closed and open-ended questions about the historical trajectories, umbrella/support organizations, legislative/policy frameworks, funding models, and scope of First Nations child welfare agencies in their jurisdictions. Research team members followed up by collecting and reviewing government documents, child welfare legislation, court documents and research reports in order to verify, refine, and provide formal references for the information provided by committee members.


In 2006, there were 91,400 First Nations peoples in Saskatchewan; they represented 13% of the total First Nations population in Canada and 9.6% of the population in Saskatchewan (Statistics Canada, 2006). First Nations children (aged zero to nineteen) constituted 17.7% of the child population in Saskatchewan; an additional 7.7% of the child population was non-First Nations Aboriginal (Statistics Canada, 2006 Census).1  While the 2006 census data indicated that Aboriginal children made up 25% of the child population in Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services (2008) reported that 80% of all children in the care in 2007/08 were Aboriginal.

First Nations communities in Saskatchewan have long worked to re-gain control over child welfare practices related to their children. The results of their efforts are demonstrated by the existence of a framework promoting First Nations jurisdiction and control over child welfare services to First Nations communities. This framework is composed of a Memorandum of Understanding for Health and Social Service delivery for First Nations in Saskatchewan, an Aboriginal specific child welfare act, and several charters for First Nations child welfare funding (the Blueprint Framework, and the First Nations Prevention Services Model and Accountability Framework Agreement) (Aboriginal and Norther Affairs Canada, 2012; Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, n.d.). The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) has worked to secure and protect the rights of First Nations in Saskatchewan.

The History of the First Nations Child Welfare System in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan shares a common national history with other provinces in regards to the development of First Nations child welfare. Residential schools served as the primary mechanism of First Nations child welfare in Canada between 1879 and 1946 (Milloy, 1999). During this period, the Canadian government’s policy was to attempt to assimilate Aboriginal peoples into Anglo-European culture by separating Aboriginal children from their families and placing them in residential schools. Residential schools were also the institutions that provided state care for First Nations children who were found to be abused or neglected in their homes (Milloy, 1999). In 1920 an amendment to the Indian Act made attendance at designated state sponsored (day, residential, institutional) schools mandatory for all children “between the ages of seven and fifteen years” who were physically able to attend (An Act to amend the Indian Act, 1920, A10). It also allowed truant officers to enforce attendance, giving them the right to, “enter any place where he has reason to believe there are Indian children” of school age and to arrest and convey to school truant children. (An Act to amend the Indian Act, 1920, A10). There were twenty residential schools operating under federal jurisdiction from 1885 until 1983 in Saskatchewan (Assembly of First Nations, 2010). After 1983, some residential schools continued to operate under the jurisdiction of First Nations and tribal councils as a means of providing care and education to some First Nations children (Miller 1996).

In 1951, the introduction of Section 88 to the Indian Act made “all laws of general application from time to time in force in any province applicable to and in respect of Indians in the province” (Indian Act, s. 88, c. 9, s. 151, 1985). Section 88 made it possible to enforce provincial child welfare legislation on-reserve. For the first time, provincial child welfare authorities began to apprehend Aboriginal children living on-reserve; this resulted in a sharp increase of First Nations children placed in care (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996). Before the introduction of Section 88 less than one percent of children in care in Saskatchewan were Aboriginal; by the mid 1970s approximately 63% of children in care were Aboriginal (Johnston, 1983). During this period in Saskatchewan, the Adopt Indian and Métis (AIM) program was created to assist in adopting Aboriginal children (Sinclair, 2009). AIM allowed for the adoption of Aboriginal children to take place outside of the provincial adoption system (Sinclair, 2009). The overrepresentation of Aboriginal children within the Saskatchewan child welfare system continues today (Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services, 2008).

In the 1980s First Nations groups throughout Canada began to demand greater control of child welfare services within their communities and expressed much dissatisfaction with provincially run child welfare programs (Auditor General of Canada, 2008). During this time, First Nations groups began to develop federally funded child welfare agencies within their communities (Auditor General of Canada, 2008). In 1991, due to a rise in the number of First Nations child welfare agencies and a perceived lack of funding for such services, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)2  implemented a system that allocated resources to agencies in a systematic way (Auditor General of Canada, 2008). INAC introduced Directive 20-1, a funding formula, and the First Nations Child and Family Services National Program Manual; both placing greater constraints on First Nations child welfare agencies by requiring them to conduct child welfare services based on provincial standards and by increasing control over funds for such services (Auditor General of Canada, 2008).

In 1990 the FSIN developed the Indian Child Welfare and Family Support Act (ICWFSA); the act includes general standards for First Nations child welfare agencies and a provision allowing individual agencies to develop their own standards. The Saskatchewan government responded by inserting special considerations for Aboriginal children in the Child and Family Services Act. In 1994 the Saskatchewan government made an amendment to Section 61 (1) of the Child and Family Services Act stating “the minister may, having regard to the aspirations of people of Indian ancestry to provide services to their communities, enter into agreements with a band or any other legal entity in accordance with the regulations (a) for the provision of services or the administration of all or any part of the this Act by the band or legal entity as an agency” (Saskatchewan Child and Family Services Act, c.C-7.2, s.61(1) 2006). Other than band notification of court appearance or placement decisions related to children from the band and permitting bands to be involved in the management of individual cases, the Saskatchewan government has yet to further develop special considerations for First Nations and Aboriginal children within the Child and Family Services Act (Saskatchewan Child and Family Services Act, 1989-90).

During the early development of formal First Nations child welfare agencies in Saskatchewan, the FSIN signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Saskatchewan government (personal communication with Gail Hartsook, March 27, 2012) allowing for the development of First Nations child welfare agencies. INAC and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Child and Family Services subsequently developed “models of delegated authority for child welfare,” formalizing the existence of First Nations child welfare agencies in Saskatchewan through delegation agreements (Saskatchewan Child Welfare Review Panel, 2010). Many First Nations agencies included language from the FSIN MOU, conditions, and political understandings into the agreements they signed (personal communication with Gail Hartsook, March 27, 2012). The first of such agreements was signed in 1993 between the Saskatchewan Department of Child and Family Services and the Touchwood Child and Family Services allowing for the agency to conduct child welfare investigations enforcing the The Child and Family Services Act (Saskatchewan Child and Family Services Act, 1989-90; Dubois & Ramdatt, 2006).

Other First Nations signed similar agreements with the provincial government in order to form First Nations child and family service agencies. First Nations signed a separate agreement with the provincial government that gave them the legal authority to apply the provincial child welfare act and a separate agreement with the federal government in order to receive funding for child welfare service provision (Saskatchewan First Nations Prevention Services Model and Accountability Framework Agreement, 2007). First Nations in Saskatchewan have maintained that their right to provide child welfare services to their communities is pre-existing and part of their continuous authority and responsibility to the well-being of First Nations peoples (Indian Child Welfare and Family Support Act, 1990).

The Current Structure of First Nations Child Welfare in Saskatchewan (2011)

There are currently seventeen First Nations child welfare agencies that serve on-reserve children and families in Saskatchewan. The names of these agencies are listed in Table 1. There are four First Nations in Saskatchewan that receive services from the Ministry of Social Services, the remaining receive services from one of the seventeen First Nations child welfare agencies (INAC, 2008). All First Nations child welfare agencies in Saskatchewan have the legal right to conduct child welfare investigations; they have signed agreements with the provincial government that gives them the legal authority to enforce the The Child and Family Services Act (Saskatchewan Child and Family Services Act, 1989-90). The Child and Family Services Act broadly states that a child’s cultural and spiritual needs are important to their well-being and that for Aboriginal children a band chief’s or designate’s perspective should be considered when making placement decisions (Saskatchewan Child and Family Services Act, 1989-90). All First Nations child welfare agencies in Saskatchewan are tied to the same legislative and policy framework as provincial agencies. There also exists the Indian Child Welfare and Family Support Act (ICWFSA), which was developed by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. While the ICWFSA has not been passed by the Saskatchewan legislature, the Saskatchewan ministry of social services has recognized ICWFSA standards as being consistent with the framework of provincial legislation and, therefore, "equivalent to ministerial policies, practices and standards" (Saskatchewan Minister of Social Services, 1993); this recognition is reflected in the protocol for case transfers to FNCFCS agencies which were released in 2001 (Government of Saskatchewan, 2011).

In 2005, members of the Saskatchewan First Nations Child and Family Services Regional Table submitted a document, called the Saskatchewan Blueprint, to the National Advisory Committee while it prepared to submit a memorandum to the cabinet on funding for First Nations child welfare services in Canada. The document proposed a funding framework alternative to Directive 20-1 and to move to a “family and community focus” in child welfare service provision, partly by funding least intrusive services and allowing for flexibility in the budget process (Saskatchewan First Nations Child and Family Services Regional Table, 2005). These recommendations complemented the national proposal for First Nations child welfare funding presented in the Wen:de report (First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, 2005).

In 2007, the Saskatchewan First Nations Family and Community Institute Inc. was established to assist First Nations child and family service agencies, providing “research, policy analysis and development, training and standards development” (Saskatchewan First Nations Prevention Services Model and Accountability Framework Agreement, 2007, p.7). The Institute was created by representatives from First Nations child and family service agencies and the FSIN and receives funding from the Saskatchewan and Canadian governments (Saskatchewan First Nations Prevention Services Model and Accountability Framework Agreement, 2007).

Also in 2007, Saskatchewan Child and Family Service Agencies, FSIN, Saskatchewan region of INAC, and the Saskatchewan Community Resources developed the Saskatchewan First Nations Prevention Services Model and Accountability Framework Agreement; it presented a child welfare prevention model complementary to the shift in federal funding for First Nations child welfare services in Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan First Nations Prevention Services Model and Accountability Framework Agreement, 2007). In 2008, INAC put forward the “Enhanced Prevention-Focused Approach” in Saskatchewan introducing funding for prevention programs in addition to operational and maintenance funds (Johnston, 2010). Directive 20-1, the funding formula previously used to fund First Nations child welfare services in Saskatchewan, provided only operations and maintenance funding.

The “Enhanced Prevention-Focused” formula consists of maintenance, operational, and prevention funds. Maintenance funds are meant to cover costs of each child in care, operational funds are intended to cover administrative costs and prevention funding is for child maltreatment prevention programs (MacDonald, & Ladd et al., 2002). The “enhanced prevention focused funding” model addresses some key criticisms of directive 20-1: it provides increased funding (Auditor General of Canada 2008, INAC 2010), specifically targets funds for prevention, and allows agencies increased flexibility in using funds (Government of Canada 2009, Johnston 2009). Indeed, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) reports that First Nations Child and Family Service Agencies in Saskatchewan will receive $105 million additional dollars through the enhanced prevention model over five years starting in 2008-09 (Johnston, 2009).

Still, as the Auditor General of Canada (2008) has noted, some of the flaws identified in directive 20-1 (McDonald & Ladd 2000) are reproduced in the new funding model. Operations costs continue to be partially based on an assumed average rate of out of home placements rather than actual agency expenses (House Standing Committee on Public Accounts 2010, Auditor General of Canada 2008) and there does not appear to be a formal mechanism for linking AANDC funding levels to the shifting responsibilities mandated by provinces/territories (Government of Canada 2009, Johnston 2010). In addition, in contrast to directive 20-1, which covered actual maintenance expenses for children in out of home care, the new model designates a block of maintenance funds based on agency maintenance costs during the preceding year (Government of Canada 2009). This block funding method does not include a formal mechanism for covering costs associated with the maintenance of children with particularly complex special needs, or the other factors which AANDC identifies as driving a doubling of maintenance costs over the last decade (INAC 2010). Thus, the full impact of the shift in funding models for First Nations Child and Family and Services in Saskatchewan is yet to be assessed and understood.

Table 1: Fully Delegated First Nations Child Welfare Agencies in Saskatchewan in 2011

Agency

First Nations Served
Agency Chiefs Child and Family Services Inc. Big River First Nation, Pelican Lake First Nation, Witchekan Lake First Nation
Ahtahkakoop Child and Family Services Inc. Ahtahkakoop First Nation
Athabasca Denesuline Child and Family Services Inc. Black Lake Denesuline Nation, Fond du Lac Denesuline Nation, Hatchet Lake Denesuline Nation
Battleford Tribal Council Human Services Corp. Indian Child and Family Services Little Pine First Nation, Lucky Man First Nation, Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head First Nation, Poundmaker First Nation
Kanaweyimik Child and Family Services Inc. Moosomin First Nation, Red Pheasant First Nation, Saulteaux First Nation, Sweetgrass First Nation, Thunderchild First Nation
Lac La Ronge Indian Band Child and Family Services Agency Inc. Lac La Ronge Indian Band: La Ronge, Stanley Mission, Grandmother’s Bay, Hall Lake, Sucker River, Little Red River
Meadow Lake Tribal Council Health and Social Development Authority Inc. Birch Narrows Dene Nation, Buffalo River Dene Nation, Canoe Lake Cree Nation, Clearwater River Dene Nation, English River First Nation, Flying Dust First Nation, Island Lake First Nation, Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, Waterhen Lake First Nation
Montreal Lake Child and Family Agency Inc. Montreal Lake Cree Nation: Montreal Lake, Little Red River
Nechapanuk Centre Child and Family Services Inc. Red Earth Cree Nation, Shoal Lake Cree Nation, Cumberland House Cree Nation
Onion Lake Family Services Inc. Onion Lake Cree Nation
Peter Ballantyne Child and Family Services Inc. Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation: Amisk Deschambault Lake, Kinoosao, Narrows, Prince Albert, Sandy Bay, South End, Sturgeon Landing
Qu'Appelle Child and Family Services Inc Carry the Kettle First Nation, Muscowpetung First Nation, Standing Buffalo Dakota First Nation, Wood Mountain First Nation
STC Health and Family Services Inc. Kinistin Saulteaux Nation, Mistawasis First Nation, Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Muskoday First Nation, One Arrow First Nation, Whitecap Dakota First Nation, Yellow Quill First Nation
Sturgeon Lake Child and Family Services Inc. Sturgeon Lake First Nation
Touchwood Child and Family Services Inc. Day Star First Nation, Fishing Lake First Nation, George Gordon First Nation, Kawacatoose First Nation, Muscowekwan First Nation, Pasqua First Nation
Yorkton Tribal Council Child and Family Services Inc. Cote First Nation, Keeseekoose First Nation, Key First Nation, Cowessess First Nation, Kahkewistahaw First Nation, Sakimay First Nation, Ochapowace First Nation, Little Black Bear’s Band, Ocean Man First Nation, Pheasant Rump First Nation, White Bear First Nation, Peepeekisis Cree Nation, Starblanket Cree Nation, Nekaneet First Nation, Piapot First Nation
Wahkotowin Child and Family Services Inc. James Smith Cree Nation

 

References:

Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada. (2012). Saskatchewan First Nations Prevention Services Model and Accountability Framework Agreement - October 2007. Retrieved from http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1326400134161/1326400183723

An Act to Amend the Indian Act. (1920). Retrieved from http://epe.lacbac.gc.ca/100/205/301/ic/cdc/aboriginaldocs/stat/html/1920....

Assembly of First Nations. (2010). History of Indian Residential Schools. Retrieved from http://www.afn.ca/residentialschools/history.html.

Auditor General of Canada. (2008). First Nations child and family services program - Indian and northern affairs Canada. In Auditor General of Canada, Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons. Retrieved from http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca

Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.

Dubois, D. and Ramdatt, J. (2006). Promising Practices in First Nations Child Welfare Management and Governance. First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. Retrieved from: http://www.fncfcs.com/pubs/fncfcsPubs.html. on March 31, 2010.

Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. (n.d.) Memorandum of Understanding. Retrieved from http://www.fsin.com/index.php/memorandum-of-understanding-mou.html

First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (Eds.). (2005). Wen:de: Coming to the Light of Day. Ottawa: ON: First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

Government of Canada. (2009).Government of Canada response to the report of the standing committee on public accounts on chapter 4, First Nations child and family services program – Indian and Northern Affairs Canada of the May 2008 report of the auditor general.Retrieved from http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mod e=1&Parl=40&Ses=2&DocId=4017684&File=0

House Standing Committee on Public Accounts. (2010). Chapter 4, First Nations Child and Family Services Program – Indian and Northern Affairs Canada of the May 2008 Report of the Auditor General. Ottawa: Government of Canada.
Government of Saskatchewan. (2011). Family-Centred Manual. Retrieved from http://www.publications.gov.sk.ca/details.cfm?p=31213.

Indian Act, R.S., (1985). c.I-5, S88. Retrieved from: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/I-5/

Indian Child Welfare and Family Support Act. (1990). Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations: Indian Government of Saskatchewan.

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. (2008). Child Welfare Service Delivery in Saskatchewan. Retrieved from http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/aiarch/mr/nr/m-a2008/2-3072b-eng.asp.

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. (2010b). Better Outcomes for First Nations Children: INAC’s Role as a Funder in First Nations Child and Family Services Updated: July 2010. Retrieved from http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/hb/sp/fncf/cfsd-eng.asp

Johnston, P. (1983). Native Children and the Child Welfare System. Toronto: Canadian Council on Social Development.

Johnston, O. (December 20, 2009). Affidavit. First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and Assembly of First Nations v.The Attorney General of Canada representing the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs., City of Ottawa. Retrieved from http://www.fncfcs.com/fnwitness/tribunal-timeline

Johnston, O. (February, 2010). Affidavit. First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and Assembly of First Nations v. The Attorney General of Canada representing the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs., City of Ottawa. Retrieved from http://www.fncfcs.com/fnwitness/tribunal-timeline.

McDonald, N., & Ladd, P. (June 2000). First Nations Child and Family Services Joint National Policy Review: Draft final report. Prepared for the Assembly of First Nations with First Nations Child and Family Service Agency Representatives in Partnership with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Ottawa: AFN and DIAND.

Miller, J.R. (1996). Shingwauk’s Vision. A History of Native Residential Schools. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Milloy, J. (1999). A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System 1879-1986. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

Personal communication with Gail Hartsook, The Saskatchewan First Nations Family and Community Institute Inc., March 27, 2012.

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. (1996). The report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Retrieved from http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ap/rrc-eng.asp.

Saskatchewan Child and Family Services Act, S.S. c. C-7.2 (1989-90).

Saskatchewan Child Welfare Review Panel. (2010). Saskatchewan Child Welfare Review Panel Report: For the Good of Our Children and Youth. Retrieved from http://saskchildwelfarereview.ca/CWR-panel-report.pdf

Saskatchewan First Nations Child and Family Services Regional Table. (2005). Submission to National Advisory Committee and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan First Nations Prevention Services Model and Accountability Framework Agreement. (October 2007). Between FSIN on Behalf of the Saskatchewan First Nations Child and Family Services Agencies, the Province of Saskatchewan and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services. (1993). Chapter 3, Section 22, Appendix A: Letter from Minister Pat Atkinson to Vice Chief Tom Iron. Family Centred Services Manual. Saskatchewan: Ministry of Social Services. Retrieved from http://www.socialservices.gov.sk.ca/family-centred-manual.pdf

Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services. (2008). Ministry of Social Services annual report. 2007-2008. Saskatoon, SK: Government of Saskatchewan.

Statistics Canada. (2006). Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in 2006: Inuit, Métis and Fist Nations, 2006 Census. Retrieved from http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2006/dp-pd/hlt/97-558/index.cfm?Lang=E

Sinclair, R. (2009). Identity or Racism? Aboriginal Transracial Adoption. In R.Sinclair, M.A. Hart & G. Bruyere (Eds.). Wícihitowin: Aboriginal Social Work in Canada. (pp.89-113). Halifax & Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

  • 1. There are three groups of Aboriginal peoples in Canada recognized by the Constitution Act (1982): First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.
  • 2. As of May 2011, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has changed its name to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC).
About the Authors: 

Anna Kozlowski is a Ph.D student in the school of social work at McGill University.

Vandna Sinha is an assistant professor at the Centre for Research on Children and Families, McGill University.

Gail Hartsook is a former executive director of the Saskatchewan First Nations Family and Community Institute, and a former advisory committee member of the First Nations Component of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect 2008 (FNCIS-2008).

Shelley Thomas is a First Nations child welfare researcher who has has spent the last 15 years working in community development and research focusing on child welfare, intimate partner violence, and First Nations health.

H.Monty Montgomery an Assistant Professor at the University of Regina in the Faculty of Social Work.

Both Shelley Thomas and H.Monty Montgomery are also current members of the advisory committee of the First Nations Component of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect 2008 (FNCIS-2008).

Suggested Citation: 

CWRP Information Sheet #99E. (2012). Montreal, QC: McGill University, Centre for Research on Children and Families.