Unfair Treatment of First Nations Families and Children


    QUEBEC CITY, June 20 /CNW Telbec/ - Ghislain Picard, Chief of the
Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL), has announced that a
request has been made to investigate the inequitable manner in which permanent
placement orders, authorized under the Youth Protection Act (Bill 125), are
applied to cases involving First Nations families and children.
    "The Chiefs of First Nations are extremely concerned about the impact
permanent life projects will soon have on communities", said the Chief of the
AFNQL, Ghislain Picard. A resolution to this effect was adopted by the Chiefs
during their last assembly.
    First Nations are not presently able to meet the requirements set out in
the law because they do not have access to the same services as other
Quebecers. "If Quebec wants to implement permanent life projects, it must do
so in a fair, equitable manner, which means taking the means necessary to
ensure First Nations families and children benefit from the same services
other Quebecers do", said Chief Picard.
    This request for an inquiry is the result of a long series of
unsuccessful attempts to bring about change. Ever since Bill 125 was first
proposed, First Nations have tried in vain to have it amended by introducing
the concept of long-term life placements that would reflect the reality in
First Nations communities. The status of the First Nations living in Quebec's
27 non-treaty communities is unique and does not correspond to cultural
communities. Although applicable standards are defined by Quebec, the federal
government provides the funding. However, as no federal funding is earmarked
for prevention or support services for First Nations families, they do not
enjoy the same degree of support available to non-Native families. For
example, Quebec has allocated $15M in the 2008-09 budget to help youth centres
adapt to the Youth Protection Act, but this money cannot be used to fund
services offered in First Nations non-treaty communities.
    The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du
Québec referred to the Convention on the Rights of the Child when it denounced
this situation in a report on youth protection services for Algonquin
children, tabled in January 2003. Furthermore, the Commission also shared its
concerns in a position paper on Bill 125 regarding the application of
placement rules and deadlines in Aboriginal communities, owing to the
insufficiency of placement resources in those communities. Since Bill 125 was
adopted in July 2007, a permanent placement in a safe location, possibly
outside the child's family or community, will be ordered for a child whose
safety and development are still believed to be compromised following a
temporary placement of 12 months (child under 2), 18 months (child aged 2 to
5 years) or 24 months (child aged 6 years or older). "This situation is urgent
and unacceptable. The consequences of the new Youth Protection Act could be
devastating and have repercussions similar to those of residential schools",
added Ms. Guylaine Gill, General Director of the First Nations of Quebec and
Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC).

    About the AFNQL

    The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the regional
organization of the Chiefs of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.

    About the FNQLHSSC

    The FNQLHSSC assists First Nations and Inuit communities and
organizations in Quebec and Labrador defend, maintain and exercise their
inherent health and social service rights, as well as develop and implement
programs in these areas.

    Some Disturbing Statistics

    - Over the last five years, 1,404 out of 12,094 First Nations children
      were placed annually.
    - Of these 1,404 children, 429 were aged five or under.
    - These children spent a total of 189,036 days in placements, for an
      average of 9.5 months per child.
    - In Quebec in 2002-03, First Nations children were placed 7 times more
      often than non-Native children.
    - It is estimated that by 2008-09, First Nations children will be placed
      9 times more often than non-Native children, and this number will
      increase by 0.33 every year.
    - The most common reasons for placements are poverty and the lack of
      local resources. These are also the reasons most First Nations children
      are placed outside the child's cultural and social environment.

For further information:

For further information: Chantal Cleary, Communications Officer, First
Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission, (418)
842-1540; Alain Garon, Communications Officer, Assembly of First Nations of
Quebec and Labrador, (418) 842-5020

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