This information sheet presents an overview of the current structure of First Nations child welfare in Nova Scotia 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 15,240 First Nation people in Nova Scotia; they represented 2.2% of the total First Nations population in Canada and 1.7% of the population in Nova Scotia (Statistics Canada, 2006). First Nations children (aged zero to nineteen) constituted 4% of the child population in Nova Scotia; an additional 1% of the child population was non-First Nations Aboriginal (Statistics Canada, 2006 Census).1
In 2007, Aboriginal children made up 4% of the child population in Nova Scotia, yet comprised 16% of all children in the care of the Ministry of Children, Youth and Families.2
First Nations communities in Nova Scotia have long worked to re-gain control over child welfare practices related to their children. These results of their efforts are demonstrated in the formation of the Mi'kmaw Family and Children’s Services, which provides child welfare services to all reserve communities in the province. Additionally, the legislative and child welfare standards governing Nova Scotia’s provincially run child welfare agencies acknowledge the importance of community, heritage, and cultural ties for Aboriginal children.
The History of the First Nations Child Welfare System in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia 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 which 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). In Nova Scotia the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School operated from 1922 to 1968, serving Aboriginal children from Nova Scotia and from other eastern provinces (Assembly of First Nations, 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 across Canada, including in Nova Scotia began to publicly express dissatisfactions with provincial child welfare services (Mandell, Blackstock, Carlson, & Fine, 2006). In 1985 the Canadian Government, the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services and First Nations communities signed a tripartite agreement allowing for the formulation of the Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services (Fast, Kozlowski, & Sinha, 2010).
By 1991, due to the 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)3 implemented a national First Nations child welfare program (Auditor General of Canada, 2008). The program 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). The program placed greater constraints on First Nations child welfare agencies, binding them to provincial standards of practice and placing greater restrictions on the use of federal funds (Auditor General of Canada, 2008).
The Current Structure of First Nations Child Welfare in Nova Scotia (2011)
Currently in Nova Scotia there is one First Nations child welfare agency, Mi’kmaw Family and Children's Services of Nova Scotia, which serves all on-reserve children and families. The agency also provides services to families that move off-reserve for up to three months (Gough, Blackstock & Bala, 2005). The 1985 tripartite agreement between the federal, provincial governments and the Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services has given authority to the agency to conduct child welfare investigations enforcing the Child, Family and Community Service Act (1990). Under the terms of the act, cases involving First Nations families can also be transferred from provincial agencies to Mi’Kmaw Family and Children’s Services.
Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services serves all 13 Mi'kmaw bands Nova Scotia, and the approximately 70% of First Nations children in Nova Scotia who reside in reserve communities (INAC, 2010a, Statistics Canada, 2006). The agency operates from two central offices and maintains satellite offices in most First Nations communities in Nova Scotia (Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services of Nova Scotia, 2009). Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services is tied to the same child welfare legislation as provincial non-aboriginal agencies, but the agency has made efforts to develop culturally appropriate practice models by consulting First Nations Chiefs and community members, and maintaing a wholistic perspective on program delivery (Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services of Nova Scotia, 2009). Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services is supported by the Native Council of Nova Scotia which represents off-reserve Mi’kmaq people (Native Council of Nova Scotia, 2010).
Nova Scotia child welfare legislation acknowledges the important role of the Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services in the provincial child welfare system. Section 68 of the Child, Family and Community Service Act, for instances, states that "any agency other than Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services involved with the voluntary placement of an Aboriginal child for adoption must not enter into the adoption agreement, or place the child in the adoptive home until fifteen days after the agency has notified the Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services of the potential agreement and placement" (Child and Family Services Act, 1990). In addition, Section 36 (3) states that "where the child who is subject of a proceeding is known to be Indian or may be Indian, the Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services of Nova Scotia shall receive notice in the same manner as a party to the proceedings and may, with its consent, be substituted for the agency that commenced the proceeding" (Child and Family Services Act, 1990).
In 2008, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) implemented the Enhanced Prevention-Focused funding formula in Nova Scotia (Johnston, 2009, S.177). The funding formula was introduced in response to criticism of Directive 20-1, the funding formula that was in place before 2007 in Nova Scotia. 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 2010b), specifically targets funds for prevention, and allows agencies increased flexibility in using funds (Government of Canada 2009, Johnston 2010). Indeed, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) reports that Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services received $1.9 million additional dollars through the enhanced prevention model in 2008-09 (INAC 2010b).
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 2010b). Thus, the full impact of the shift in funding models for Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services is yet to be assessed and understood.
Table 1: Fully Delegated First Nations Child Welfare Agencies in Nova Scotia
|Agency||First Nations Communities Served|
|Mi’kmaw Family & Children's Services of Nova Scotia||Acadia, Annapolis Valley, Bear River, Chapel Island, Eskasoni, Glooscap, Indian Brook, Membertou, Millbrook, Paq’tnkek, Pictou Landing, Wagmatcook, We’koqma’q|
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- 1There are three groups of Aboriginal peoples in Canada recognized by the Constitution Act (1982): First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.
- 2Child in care statistics based on personal conversations with ministry officials (Mulcahy, 2009).
- 3As of May 2011, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), changed its name to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC).
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