UAlberta research centre empowers Indigenous communities to apply federal Indigenous child welfare law
By Sarah Kent
A research centre at the University of Alberta is helping Indigenous communities navigate and implement a law that affirms Indigenous Peoples have inherent jurisdiction over the welfare of their children.
The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge, a joint initiative of the Faculties of Law and Native Studies, has produced a library of guides and a series of workshops that unpack “An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families,” formerly known as Bill C-92.
The Act, which came into force January 1, recognizes the inherent jurisdiction of Indigenous communities and nations to write their own laws regarding child and family services and also sets national minimum standards.
“We want Nations to feel empowered by the legislation,” said Koren Lightning-Earle, legal counsel for the Lodge.
For the Lodge, education is a key strategy in ensuring the act is accessible and benefits Indigenous communities, families and children. Six guides are currently available for Indigenous governing bodies and community members, parents, social workers, service providers, health care professionals and lawyers.
The guides, available in both English and French, provide practical support, covering topics such as what Indigenous parents need to know about the National Standards and what steps First Nations and other Indigenous Governing Bodies can take to enact their own Indigenous laws.
“Now that some Nations have the information, they want to move into the next phase,” said Lightning-Earle. “We are looking at how to support them in asserting their jurisdiction and drafting their legislation.”
Workshops and guided conversations, which have moved to virtual delivery due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have become instrumental in assisting Indigenous communities build on the benefits of this new act, she said.
The Lodge’s long-term vision is to continue hosting workshops for Indigenous communities and expand the resource library to assist all those impacted by or responsible for the implementation of the act. Resources will also highlight wise practices and success stories regarding implementation as they emerge.