Coast Salish Territory – Vancouver, B.C. – The First Nations Health Council (FNHC) and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) have marked the signing of a recent agreement in ceremony on Coast Salish Territory in Vancouver.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is a commitment to work together, through a process of community engagement, to improve the health and wellbeing of First Nations children, youth and families in B.C. The ceremonial event follows the initial signing that took place on February 14, 2017 in Ottawa and is an integral part of bringing the agreement to life.
This agreement intends to create space for communities to engage in direct dialogue with the FNHC and INAC on funding, policy and programs that will help to shape and improve the way services for children and families are designed and delivered in the future, including to reduce the disproportionate rate of Indigenous children being taken into care. With a vision of keeping children safe and families together, one of the goals of the engagement process is to see an increase in investments for community-based prevention services.
The parties acknowledge the diversity of perspectives, capacity and priorities of First Nations to reform the systems that serve their children, youth and families in B.C. The engagement process envisioned in this agreement will be inclusive, comprehensive and community-led, providing opportunities to build consensus on new priorities, models, and processes. This process will be community-driven and Nation-based, ensuring each Nation has the time and ability to contribute fully to this conversation.
Canada and First Nations in B.C. now have the opportunity to address historic funding shortfalls and build new relationships together, ones that are based on mutual accountability, increased flexibility and greater First Nations control. The MoU provides new opportunities for communities to lead in the design, planning, and dialogue around Indigenous child and family well-being in order to address the broader social determinants of health. The primary goal is to build healthy and sustainable communities that are adequately funded to deliver culturally appropriate and safe services for First Nations children, youth and families.
Importantly, this work is without prejudice to First Nations interests and does not limit, impede, or alter existing agreements or discussions between First Nations and the federal and provincial government. This is a starting point for dialogue between Canada and B.C. First Nations, opening the door for a conversation to take place on change. It is intended to strengthen linkages between agencies involved in health, education, justice, public safety, employment and training, social services and child welfare, while acknowledging the impacts of intergenerational trauma, poverty and mental wellness and substance use on health.
Grand Chief Doug Kelly First Nations Health Council Chair
“For too long, the government took decisions about us without us. This agreement creates the space for Chiefs and leaders to engage directly with government decision-makers to transform together child, youth, and family services. Transformative change is heavy work and it requires many hands – but we can do this!”
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P. Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development
“Our priority as Canadians must be—first and foremost—the health, well-being and protection of Indigenous children. Reconciliation and its progress between Canada and Indigenous Peoples is crucial. We are proud to be working with the First Nations Health Council in British Columbia to take this step on the path forward to ensuring the program meets the needs of children, families and communities.”
The Honourable Stephanie Cadieux Minister of Children and Family Development
“This MoU is an important milestone that brings focus to our shared goal of helping to keep families together and ensuring that Indigenous children remain connected to their cultures, traditions and communities. This agreement reflects the direction in the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as a number of key reports and engagement processes informing positive change to Indigenous child welfare. I’m honoured to be a part of the changes we are all making — as full and equal partners — to improve the health and well-being of First Nations children, youth and families.”
To view the Memorandum of Understanding, please visit: http://fnhc.ca/2017/02/first-nations-health-council-and-indigenous-and-northern-affairs-sign-mou-on-root-causes/
First Nations Health Council 604-831-4898
Sabrina Williams – Press Secretary Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett 613-697-8316
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada 819-953-1160