MEGA-NEWS: First Nations decry funding cuts to programs preventing child removal

The cancellation of a provincial program supporting Aboriginal child welfare has several B.C. First Nations organizations up in arms. 

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The Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD) announced the cancellation of the Indigenous Approaches (IA) program as of January 31. The program supports 18 First Nations-driven projects aimed at avoiding the need for government intervention in their children’s welfare.

“Understand that the effort being put forward in the Indigenous Approaches was to meet our children’s needs in the way and manner that our tradition and our cultural values dictate,” said Bob Chamberlain, co-chair of the First Nations Child and Family Wellness Council, and vice president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, at a press conference on January 22. “It is time for the government to acknowledge that this ‘we know what’s best for Indians’ [approach] is going to fail every single time.” 

Among those programs to be cut is a MCFD-supported community garden effort that supplements the food stocks of low-income families, preventing their children from being removed by MCFD for “neglect.” Another program provided patient monitors whose job was to guide parents and guardians through interactions with MCFD, from meetings with social workers to family court appearances.

MCFD says IAs were originally designed to fund First Nations “governance development,” whereas MCFD is focused solely on funding services. IA contractors who wish to continue receiving funds can submit business plans to MCFD that “clearly outline measurable targets for providing services to children” to secure future funding.

“There’s plenty of reports that demonstrate quite clearly how [MCFD] continues to fail to meet the needs of our First Nations children,” said Chamberlain.

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