There is an urgent need to change the way that child and family services are provided to First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, who are severely over-represented in the foster care system. In 2016, Indigenous children represented 7.7% of all children living in Canada under the age of 15, but accounted for 52.2% of children in foster care in private homes. Too many children are being removed from their families and separated from their culture and communities, impacting not only the lives of the children, but the lives of future generations.
The first five Calls to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 appeal to federal, provincial, territorial, and Indigenous governments to implement changes to the child and family services system. In response to these Calls to Action, the Government of Canada has been working in partnership with Indigenous peoples, Provinces and Territories to reform child and family services.
The need for reform was also underlined by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, who in 2016 found Canada’s First Nations Child and Family Services Program to be discriminatory and ordered Canada to amend the program.
On January 25-26, 2018, the Minister of Indigenous Services hosted an Emergency Meeting involving all provinces and territories, First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders to address the over-representation of Indigenous children in the child and family services system and to work together toward reform. Coming out of the meeting, and based on the key findings of discussion, Canada committed to six points of action, including supporting communities to exercise jurisdiction and exploring the potential for co-developed federal legislation in the area of child and family services.
New federal legislation was also called for in an Interim Report by the National Advisory Committee on First Nations Child and Family Services Program Reform in January 2018. Such reforms were also supported by resolutions passed in May 2018 and December 2018 by the Assembly of First Nations and in November 2018 by the Métis Nation General Assembly.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2018, Indigenous Services Canada engaged with national, regional, and community organizations, with representatives from First Nations, Inuit and Métis, as well as Treaty Nations, self-governing First Nations, Provinces and Territories, experts and those with lived experience. Over 65 engagement sessions were held with nearly 2,000 participants. Additional engagements took place with Indigenous and provincial and territorial partners in January 2019 to gather feedback on the content of the draft legislation.
Thanks to the efforts of people working across Canada, the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families (the Act), became law on June 21, 2019, and will come into effect as of January 1, 2020. This document is intended to serve as an implementation guide for the Act. This guide is not intended as, and does not provide, legal advice on the Act.