SASKATOON -- The federal government is providing funding that aims to help Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan gain control of children in care.

Marc Miller, the minister of Indigenous Services, joined Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) for Thursday’s announcement in Saskatoon.

He said the Government of Canada will provide over $23 million a year over a three year period for a total of just under $71 million to help advance STC’s child and family services.

STC Chief Mark Arcand calls it a “progressive” model that will help its member nations work towards getting full jurisdiction over their children under Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.

The legislation, which came into effect in June 2019, allows Indigenous communities and groups to develop policies and laws based on their histories, culture and circumstances, and work towards exercising partial or full jurisdiction over child and family services at their own pace.

“We can’t just say as a federal government that you have that right and stand back and not produce the resources and get out of the way, and that’s what we’re doing today,” Miller said.

“Making this important transition will reduce the number of Indigenous children in care, which is far too high, far exceeds the percentage of the population that it represents by several factors, and to keep them in the community where they belong, immersed in their culture, among their people.”

IDENTITY AND CULTURE

Arcand echoed the importance of ensuring Indigenous children stay connected to their culture and helping them recover from the inter-generational trauma caused by residential schools.

“It’s not just about bringing our kids home, it’s about getting their identity, their culture, their language back and knowing who they are. And we have to deal with the situations that have traumatized our families and working with our children and moving in a positive direction,” he said.

Arcand adds the funding is “significant” as it will allow STC to have medical plans for children who suffer from conditions like Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as well as hire more staff, including psychologists to work alongside Elders.

Arcand said the funding is a step towards reconciliation.

“Reconciliation is now coming with action, which is that investment, and it’s our job as chiefs from our communities to show that accountability and transparency for the funding that we receive and based on our credibility, it’s going to be easy because we’re going to show good outcomes and good results,” he said.

'THOUGHT AND HARD WORK'

Arcand said discussions about the funding haveas been in the works for quite some time and involved the STC developing a detailed plan about how it would use the money — work Miller commends.

“You put the thought and hard work and quantified it to move it forward ... you know what you wanted, you knew how you were going to do it and you weren’t going to take no for an answer,” Miller said while addressing Arcand.

Arcand said it is the chiefs of the First Nations STC represents that should be credited for the work: “This is their vision, this is their autonomy, this is their opportunity to get back something they never should have lost, was their children.”

Chiefs from several Saskatchewan First Nations, including Mistawasis First Nation, Muskoday First Nation, Kinistin Saulteaux Nation, Whitecap Dakota First Nation and Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, were also part of Thursday’s announcement and signing of the progressive advancement in child and family services.

“We wouldn’t want this to happen to any other race, culture, identity. It’s not right, it destroys people, it destroys families, it destroys communities and now you can see these types of financial investments from the federal government to help improve quality of life and we just got to do what’s right for the next generation,” Arcand said.