CWRP Information Sheet #96E. (2012). Montreal, QC: McGill University, Centre for Research on Children and Families.
This information sheet presents an overview of the current structure of First Nations child welfare in New Brunswick 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 12,385 First Nations people in New Brunswick; they represented 1.8% of the total First Nations population in Canada and 1.7% of the population of New Brunswick (Statistics Canada, 2006). First Nations children (aged zero to nineteen) constituted 3% of the child population in New Brunswick; an additional less than one percent of the child population was non-First Nations Aboriginal (Statistics Canada, 2006).1
While the 2010 Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate report, Hand in Hand, indicated that First Nations children living on-reserve made up about 2% of the child population in New Brunswick, the rate of out-of-home placement for First Nations children was 6%. In comparison, the out-of-home placement rate was 1% for non-First Nations children, who made up about 97% of the child population (Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2010).
First Nations communities in New Brunswick 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 eleven First Nations child welfare agencies; these agencies serve all 15 of the First Nations reserves in New Brunswick (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 2010), and, accordingly, the 58% of the First Nation child population that live on-reserve (Statistics Canada, 2001). All First Nations child welfare agencies also provide off-reserve services “to status First Nations children …[who] request services,” and follow a protocol for provision of off-reserve services that was agreed to by the provincial government and First Nations agencies (Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2010, p. 37).
The History of the First Nations Child Welfare System in New Brunswick
New Brunswick 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 have been abused or neglected in their homes. 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). Information on the residential school system in New Brunswick is difficult to access. However, based on data from the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs Atlantic Survivors Database System, which gathers information about the number of residential school survivors residing in the Atlantic provinces, it appears that Aboriginal children from New Brunswick were sent to the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Nova Scotia (Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs, 2010; Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2010).
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; nationally, this resulted in a sharp increase of First Nations children placed in care (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996). Starting in the early 1980s First Nations communities in New Brunswick began to publicly express dissatisfactions with provincial child welfare services (Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2009). In 1983, the Canadian and New Brunswick governments signed the Indian Child and Family Services Agreement allowing Big Cove, Burnt Church, Eel Ground and Tobique First Nations communities to provide child welfare services working under the legal requirements of the Child and Family Services and Relations Act (1998). Between 1983 and 1988, six additional First Nations communities signed similar agreements and formed delegated First Nations child welfare agencies (Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2009). By 1994 the 11th First Nations child welfare agency was formed, serving four of the five First Nations communities in New Brunswick not yet served by a First Nations agency (Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2010).
By 1991, due to a national 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 national First Nations child welfare program (Auditor General of Canada, 2008). The program was comprised of a funding formula, Directive 20-1, and standards, documented in the First Nations Child and Family Services National Program Manual, which required First Nations child welfare agencies to conduct child welfare services based on provincial standards (Auditor General of Canada, 2008). Under the terms of Directive 20-1, New Brunswick child welfare agencies, received operations budgets, determined on the basis of the child population, and funds to cover maintenance expenses for children placed in out of home care. In 1993, the MicMac and Maliseet First Nations Services Standard Manual, a set of standards for First Nations child welfare, was developed by First Nations child welfare agencies in New Brunswick (Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2009). These standards were revised in 2004 and continue to operate within New Brunswick. The Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate has recently commented that due to the “complex approval process” involved in updating First Nations operational standards, they are outdated and do not reflect current best child welfare practices (Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2010, p. 41).
The Current Structure of First Nations Child Welfare in New Brunswick (2011)
Currently, in New Brunswick, there are ten First Nations child welfare agencies. The names of these agencies are listed in Table 1. Agencies are solely funded to provide services to children and families on-reserve, but in some cases they also serve Band members residing off-reserve (Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2010).
All First Nations child welfare agencies in New Brunswick are delegated to conduct child welfare investigations; they have signed agreements with the provincial government that give them authority to enforce the Child and Family Services and Relations Act. The New Brunswick government has not proposed any changes to the Child and Family Services and Relations Act that give special considerations to Aboriginal children and families ("Child and Family Services and Relations Act, R.S.N.B.," 1998). However, standards included in the MicMac and Maliseet First Nations Services Standard Manual reflect Mi’kmaq and Maliseet values, the two largest First Nations groups in New Brunswick (Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2010). The manual includes: “provisions for the use of a Family Mediator (influential family member) to help resolve service issues; provisions for custom adoption; elders and community advisory committees composed of family mediators and other appropriate community members; and a list of preferential placements” (Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2009, p. 7).
First Nations child welfare agencies in New Brunswick continue to receive funding under the term of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development’s (AANDC) national formula, Directive 20-1 (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 2007), which provides operations funding based on the child population size and covers maintenance costs for children placed in out of home care (McDonald & Ladd, 2000). Funds are distributed to First Nations Band Councils,3 based on the number of children eligible for Band Registration under the Indian Act (Indian Act,1985; Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2010). Directive 20-1 has been criticized for under-funding administrative and child maintenance services for First Nations children, failing to fund preventative or support services for families of children who are not in-care, and contributing to jurisdictional disputes which compromise the quality and efficiency of services for First Nations children (Blackstock, Prakash, Loxley, & Wien, 2005; Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 2007; McDonald & Ladd, 2000). According to the New Brunswick Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate 2010 report only one4 First Nations child welfare agency in New Brunswick “has a population large enough to benefit fully from this funding formula” (p.18). The Ombudsman, in the same report, stated that “the strengths of the current [child welfare] service model” lies in “Head Start programs for young children, community-based service delivery, social work outreach … [and] culturally-based child welfare practices” (p.7).
The New Brunswick government has recently begun to consider the state of child welfare for First Nations children and families. In February 2010, the New Brunswick Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate published the results of a review of First Nations child welfare. The review was requested by the Province of New Brunswick as a follow up to child death review which focused on a First Nations child who died while in the care of a First Nation Agency. The Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate made numerous recommendations related to restructuring the child welfare system in order to better serve First Nations children and families. These included consolidating the eleven existing First Nations Child and Family Service Agencies into three agencies, with one First Nations Child and Family Service Office. Other recommendations were that child welfare service provision be culturally appropriate for First Nations children and families, that the New Brunswick government recognize the unique circumstances affecting First Nations people, and that funding for child welfare services to First Nations people take into consideration the funding needs suggested by First Nations communities (Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate, 2010.
Table 1: Fully Delegated First Nations Child Welfare Agencies in New Brunswick in 2011
|Agency||First Nations Served|
|Four Directions Child and Family Services||Buctouche First Nation, Fort Folly First Nation, Indian Island First Nation, Pabineau, Metepenagiag First Nation* (served by Red Bank Child and Family Services until 2010)|
|Burnt Church Child and Family Services||Burnt Church|
|Eel Ground Child and Family Services||Eel Ground First Nation|
|Eel River Bar Child and Family Services||Eel River Bar First Nation|
|Elsipogtog Child and Family Services||Elsipogtog/Big Cove First Nation|
|Kingsclear Child and Family Services||Kingsclear First Nation|
|Oromocto Child and Family Services||Oromocto First Nation|
|St. Mary's Child and Family Services||St. Mary's First Nations|
|Tobique Child and Family Services||Tobique First Nation|
|Woodstock Child and Family Services||Woodstock First Nation|
* Metepenagiag First Nation was previously served by Red Bank Child and Family Services, which closed its doors in 2010.
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Blackstock, C., Prakash, T., Loxley, J., & Wien, F. (2005). Wen:de: We are Coming to the Light of Day. Ottawa: First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.
Child and Family Services and Relations Act, R.S.N.B. (1998). Retrieved from http://www.gnb.ca/0062/regs/98-27.htm
Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.
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Milloy, J. (1999). A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System 1879-1986. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.
Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate. (2009). A review of First Nations child welfare in New Brunswick: Context and opportunity. Fredericton, NB: Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate. Retrieved from http://www.gnb.ca/0073/index-e.asp
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- 1There are three groups of Aboriginal peoples in Canada recognized by the Constitution Act (1982): First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.
- 2As of May 2011, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has changed its name to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC).
- 3The sole exception is Four Directions Child and Family Services, which receives funds directly from INAC without Band Council financial involvement.
- 4The Elsipogtog First Nations child and family services.