IFSD will produce monthly updates posted on this website. These written updates can be supplemented with briefings to interested parties by IFSD. Project results (interim and final) will be published on this website as soon as they are available.
In January 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) ruled that First Nations children were being discriminated against in the child welfare system. Overrepresented in a system that incentivized the placement of children in care, First Nations children and agencies were deemed to be underfunded relative to their needs. Through subsequent orders in 2018, the CHRT ordered analysis of the complete costs of the First Nations child welfare system based on the needs of First Nations agencies. Canada states that it is committed to implementing these orders.
As the complainants in the case, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada requested that the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy (IFSD) at the University of Ottawa produce a response to CHRT (2018) orders 408, 418, and 421. IFSD engaged with AFN as the project contract holder and with the National Advisory Committee on First Nations Child and Family Services (NAC) for directional and strategic support. Pursuant to the orders, IFSD was asked to:
1 The National Advisory Committee (NAC) is a committee established after the publication of the First Nations Child and Family Services Joint National Policy Review Final Report in 2000 in order to fulfill the recommendations made by the report. The committee consisted of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) employees (what today has been divided into Indigenous Services Canada and Crown Indigenous Affairs), FNCFS staff and AFN representatives. After the CHRT decision in January 2016, the NAC was reconvened to monitor the reform of the FNFCS program. NAC’s current terms of reference are available here: https://www.afn.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/NAC-Final-Terms-of-Reference.pdf The current NAC is comprised of representatives from the federal government, representatives from the AFN, representatives from the First Nations Child and Family Caring society, regional representatives (generally from a FNCFS agency), a youth representatives and an elder representative. NAC is functionally managed by AFN (i.e. it convenes the meetings and can enter into contracts on behalf of NAC). In the context of this project, NAC served as a board of directors offering perspective and strategic advice (without interfering in the research, analysis and delivery of the project).
The current protection-focused system does not produce adequate results for children and families, fails to recognize the contextual challenges that lead to disadvantaged starting points for many communities, significantly underfunds prevention, has important gaps in capital and IT spending, struggles to remunerate employees relative to provincial levels, and falls short on data collection and analytics required to identify and support wise practices.
In this context, IFSD makes a number of recommendations:
IFSD has three recommendations with respect to next-steps to further the work undertaken in this study:
IFSD wishes to thank the members of NAC for their on-going feedback and support of this work. We are grateful for the support of Dr. Cindy Blackstock and the Caring Society, Jonathan Thompson, Martin Orr and AFN.
We thank Thomas Anderson of Statistics Canada’s Social and Aboriginal Statistics for clarifying availability and applicability of data. We thank our expert reviewers, especially Professors Scott Bennett and John Loxley for their helpful comments in the research and analysis processes, as well as our expert roundtable composed of nationally recognized academic experts in social work, Indigenous health, evaluation, and substance misuse, as well as practitioners and agency leaders, whose knowledge was invaluable in framing performance considerations.
We thank the leadership and staff of FNCFS agencies for the incredible work that they do in saving lives of children under the most difficult and disadvantaged environments imaginable. The strong survey response rate and robustness of results was entirely dependent on the trust, participation, and support of FNCFS agencies and their leadership. IFSD is grateful for their confidence and for the knowledge and insight they shared.
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Table 1: Future state vision for FNCFS agencies.
For questions about the project or to participate, please contact:
Dr. Helaina Gaspard, Director, Governance and Institutions
Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy