SAULT STE MARIE — Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee opened up the Child Well-Being Law and System Development session with passion to inspire those in the room to keep up the work and make the Anishinabek Nation Child Well-Being Law a reality.
“Enough is enough,” says the Grand Chief of 39 First Nations in Ontario. “We have to be united on the most important issue of all — our children. We can’t let the nay-sayers bog us down. We have to assert our jurisdiction over our children and get our children back.”
Union of Ontario Indians Social Services Director Adrienne Pelletier and legal counsel Tracey O’Donnell have been the driving force for this law and system.
“We need a child welfare system that is understanding and responsive to the realities and needs of Anishinabek children and families in accordance with the First Nation’s community customs and traditions child-rearing practices,” says Pelletier. “We are exercising our inherent jurisdiction.”
“We will be travelling to our communities in the next few months to provide information to our citizens and answer any questions they may have about the Law and the system.”
Meetings with Anishinabek citizens took place from 2009-2011, then the law was drafted. There were then several meetings with citizens to revise the law from 2011-2014. The Child Well-Being Working Group finalized the law in 2014-15. The Draft Law was presented to the Anishinabek Nation Grand Council in June 2015.
“We need Anishinabek children and families to have the same level of services no matter where they reside and to have access to culturally appropriate services preferably delivered by qualified First Nations staff.”
Next steps are First Nation approval through individual First Nation processes and the implementation of the Law.
“The Law will be a living document that will be amended as required,” say Pelletier. “Our Child Well-Being Working Group is developing the structures, organizational policies and procedures, standards and assessment tools,” says Pelletier. “We will have on-going discussions with Ontario to negotiate support for implementation. We are going to initiate discussions with the new Liberal Federal government for funding.”