Cowessess First Nation under the leadership of Chief Cadmus Delorme is making history by becoming the first Indigenous community in Canada to pass its own child welfare legislation.
Cowessess First Nation, located about 160 kilometres east of Regina, is now working with the federal and provincial governments on implementation under the law C-92.
Under Bill C-92: An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, Indigenous communities across Canada are empowered to reclaim control over child welfare. The federal legislation came into force on Jan. 1.
On Jan. 9, Cowessess gave formal notice to Canada that it was developing its own law, sending a First Nations resolution exercising its right to govern on such matters. The law states that Indigenous law will prevail over federal and provincial law.
Cowessess Membership voted 152-18 on Monday in a referendum to ratify the nation’s Miyo Pimatisowan Act.
The law C-92 was passed in the 42 Parliament by the Federal Liberal government. Former Member of Parliament Robert Falcon Ouellette who worked to ensure the passage of the law which has the ultimate aim of strengthening families and keeping children out of child welfare and foster care said “currently there are more children in care than at any time during the height of the Indian Residential School period, we need to change this and Cowessess First Nation is taking control of their Human Rights to create a better future for their children.
Cowessess projects it will need $15 million to fund its child and family services agency, named Chief Red Bear Lodge. The nation is currently seeking a CEO for the organization. Right now, about 350 of the nation’s families are involved in preventative care and 156 children are in protective care.
The federal and provincial governments will have one year to effect the transfer before automatically the Cowessess law will prevail. The nation’s Miyo Pimatisowan Act accounts for the complicated devolution process. The community leadership plans to continue to work closely with its counterparts to ensure a smooth, and likely slow, transfer of responsibilities.