Peguis First Nation to sign child-welfare agreement with feds, province

Peguis becomes the first Manitoba First Nation to take control of its child and family services. A multi-lateral agreement was signed Tuesday, which was years in the making. Alex Karpa reports.

By Alex Karpa and Canadian Press

Peguis First Nation is set to become the first Indigenous group in Manitoba to take control of child welfare under federal legislation that came into effect three years ago.

The community north of Winnipeg is to be joined Tuesday by Patty Hajdu, the federal Indigenous services minister, and Rochelle Squires, the provincial families minister, in the signing of a co-ordination agreement between the three governments.

“Our nation is exercising its inherent rights and ensuring that our Indigenous legal traditions and teachings have formed the basis for our law,” Chief Glenn Hudson said in a release.

Patty Hajdu on the left – Chief Glenn Hudson of Peguis First Nation on the right.

“We’re not afraid. We’re not afraid to do what’s right. We’re not to ensure that we continue to move the path forward.”

The First Nation is one of just over two dozen communities to have notified Indigenous Services Canada that it intends to handle its own child and family services, as outlined in the federal Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis Children, Youth and Families.

“Canada and Manitoba join Peguis today in signing this historic child and family services co-ordination agreement that rightly puts them in the driver’s seat and makes sure they have the tools and resources they need,” said Hajdu.

Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan was the first group in Canada to take over child welfare in July 2021.

“Taking these steps, steps in a direction where who knows it will lead us, but I see good things – darn good things,” said Martin Favel, Peguis First Nation Councillor and CFS Portfolio Holder.

Chief Glenn Hudson of Peguis First Nation to sign child-welfare agreement with feds, province.

Peguis had its own laws come into effect one year ago, after the community notified Ottawa the previous year. But the province did not sign on at the time.

Residential school survivor Louise McCorrister says Indigenous people are in the biggest crisis of their lives right now.

“This new legislation, will allow us, the red people, as our aboriginal people, to take those people and lift them up, pick them up, and make them proud and to walk strong,” said Louise McCorrister, agency board chair.

This would be the first time Manitoba has signed such an agreement after it previously expressed concerns over the legislation.

“This is the first agreement to be signed in the Province of Manitoba. It is fitting that it is Peguis First Nation. We can’t go back to those days. We need to continue to move forward, and we will do that together,” said Premier Heather Stefanson.

Chief Glenn Hudson of Peguis First Nation to sign child-welfare agreement with feds, province.

The First Nation said its laws will allow members from across the country to receive services.

“The enactment of Indigenous laws is vital to shared priorities of ensuring current and future generations of children remain and reunite with their families and loved ones. I commend the courage and strength of Peguis First Nation as they lead us on this path,” said Squires.

The legislation has a focus on prevention so families can receive supports to remain together.

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