Family Laws in Sagkeeng – A Brief Overview
Sagkeeng maintains that children, and families, are sacred and integral members of our nation with rights and responsibilities thereof. Since time immemorial, inherent laws, practices, and values surrounding family and children are passed on through oral traditions. Systems were present within our community which were designed to protect children, preserve families, as well as knit the community together in a good way. These practices have not been totally eroded by assimilation and or modern day practices. Many of the traditions, values, and practices surrounding the care and preservation of Sagkeeng families are retained but not outwardly supported by modern day systems.
The current, or modern day, family law system is known as “Child and Family Services”. It is a relatively new concept among First Nation People. These practices were borrowed from external societies and have been extended to First Nation Peoples when the Indian Act of Canada was amended in 1951. Known at the time as Children’s Aid Societies, these provincial laws surrounding families and children extended to our communities as the Indian Residential Schools were winding down, and more First Nation people were moving to urban centers.
The Manitoba Child and Family Services system operates on delegated authority to provide child protective services to First Nation Communities since the 1951 amendment to the Indian Act. Since that time, many children have been placed outside of their familial homes.
While many workers within this system work tirelessly to preserve families and protect children, it is difficult for them to work within a system which is relatively new and foreign to First Nation communities.
There have been a few amendments to this ‘delegated model’ since 1951. This includes the creation of an agreement for First Nations to operate Child Protection services by delegation, and more recently, an extension of services for band members outside of on-reserve boundaries. Throughout these changes, First Nation leadership has maintained that services for children and families remain as the responsibility of First Nations.
Document: BCR To Develop the Law
About Bill C-92
Bill C-92, “An act respecting First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children, youth, and families”, was introduced by the federal government on February 28, 2019, and received royal assent on June 21, 2019. The Act became law in January of 2020. It recognizes and affirms in law the jurisdiction of First Nations over child and family services and gives Indigenous communities the freedom to develop laws and policies based on their own culture, history, and circumstances. The Act establishes national principles that guide the provision of Indigenous child and family services including the best interests of the child, cultural continuity, and substantive equality.
Bill C-92 lays out the framework for First Nations to assume jurisdiction over child and family services, replacing the role of the province. This enables First Nations to follow their own policies and implement alternative approaches based on the needs and desire of the community.
The implementation of Bill C-92 is still in its early stages and several First Nation communities across Canada have already begun their journey towards successfully implementing their own laws and have taken jurisdiction over child and family services.
Sagkeeng Family Law Project
Sagkeeng First Nation shares common challenges with other Indigenous communities across Canadian Territories. Our unique history and the challenges thereof have left our communities with many issues that we need to address. These issues include an interruption of family values, intergenerational trauma, and a history of displacement and anomie. The enactment of Bill C-92 is not a panacea for these issues but we are challenged to utilize this legislation as a means strengthen the building blocks of our nation; children and families.
To take jurisdiction over for child and family services, Sagkeeng Anicinabe must pass our own law outlining our authority, and the framework for child and family services in the community. Once our law has been passed, negotiations with the federal government can take place to provide the required funds to operate the First Nation-led provision of child and family services.
In March of 2023, Sagkeeng leadership passed resolution in recognition of inherent rights and responsibilities for Sagkeeng Children and Families.
A gathering was held in March 2023, in order to provide information to Sagkeeng Band members. This event marked the beginning of engagement sessions for Sagkeeng Band members with respect to the Sagkeeng Family Law Project.
In the next few months, knowledge keepers will be entrusted with articulating Sagkeeng Family Law. Representatives will be appointed from three areas, North Shore, South Shore, and citizens of Sagkeeng who reside elsewhere.
Led by Community and Sagkeeng Community leadership, the Sagkeeng Family Law project will partner with the existing Child and Family Services, as well as other agencies and organizations.
Band members are encouraged to inform the representatives through social media, written submissions, and attendance at information sessions or community luncheons. Direct conversations with the project coordinator will continue and are still encouraged.
The project will be ongoing until the summer of 2024. The initial community engagement phase began in March 2023, however we will welcome community feedback at various phases throughout the project.
Your Knowledge of Sagkeeng laws and practices are important
Anicinabe laws have been in effect since time immemorial. We practice them throughout our lives and they have been passed onto us by our parents, grandparents, relatives and community. When we share what has been shared to us we are strengthening and revitalizing our circles and community. If you would like to speak with someone to share your views, you can do it through:
- Add us on Facebook
- Community law-speak luncheons- Watch for events on FB
- Written submissions- Send to email address
Watch the Sagkeeng Website for upcoming information on how you can participate as well as for upcoming events.
For more information contact: Cybil Williams – Project Manager
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 204-830-1376