Partnership and Indigenous Engagement
The Partnership and Indigenous Engagement division works collaboratively and respectfully with First Nations and Métis Peoples and communities to find a new path forward to overcome existing systemic barriers. In partnership, the division affirms and upholds Indigenous peoples’ ability to exercise their inherent rights, jurisdiction and self-governance over their children and families.
Aligned to the work of the division, on August 31, 2021 Minister Dean sent this Letter of Commitment to the First Nations Leadership Council, which commits us to actively engage and co-develop policy and legislation changes with the FNLC and with Indigenous rights holders. See supporting infographic.
Additionally, the division’s ongoing focus is providing support and guidance to each Indigenous community as they work towards exercising authority and jurisdiction over child and family services. This may include creating shared workplans, collaborating with partners from across the provincial and federal governments, developing agreements to formalize relationships and supporting efforts to address service delivery issues affecting Indigenous children, families and communities.
The division's work directly supports the goal of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) to engage with Indigenous peoples and partners to strengthen the child welfare system by addressing the root causes of the over-representation of Indigenous children and youth in government care. This work is guided by the:
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Canadian Human Rights Tribunal findings
- B.C. report on Indigenous child welfare, Indigenous Resilience, Connectedness and Reunification – From Root Causes to Root Solutions
- Calls for Justice related to social workers and those implicated in child welfare from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
- Spirit and values of MCFD’s Aboriginal Policy and Practice Framework
The province through MCFD is working with individual First Nations, Indigenous communities and Canada (Crown-Indigenous Relations & Northern Affairs and Indigenous Services) to sign separate agreements that will see the nations exercise their jurisdiction over child and family services. B.C. also has a similar agreement with Métis Nation British Columbia. Some examples of the type of agreements and other actions underway are described below.
- A tripartite Letter of Understanding (LOU) was signed in January 2019 between Cowichan Tribes, the province and Canada. The LOU provides a framework to move towards recognition and implementation of Cowichan Tribes jurisdiction over child and family services.
- While Cowichan is currently engaged in the treaty process, this LOU falls outside of treaty, in advance of the completion of treaty negotiations to recognize and support the desire of Cowichan Tribes to achieve culturally-based solutions for their children, youth, families and community.
- The Huu-ay-aht First Nations (a modern treaty nation under the Maa-nulth Final Agreement) is working with B.C. and Canada to implement recommendations from the Huu-ay-aht First Nations Social Services Project: Safe, Healthy and Connected, Bringing Huu-ay-aht Children Home. The goal is to establish agreements that will ensure a collaborative approach to child welfare for Huu-ay-aht children and families.
- MCFD and the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation (implementation team for the Maa-nulth Final Agreement) represent provincial interests at this table.
- Wet’suwet’en Nation, MCFD and Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding in October 2018. The MOU provides a framework to move towards recognition and implementation of Wet’suwet’en jurisdiction over child and family services.
- MCFD also entered a bi-lateral Memorandum of Understanding with Wet’suwet’en in 2017 to improve the care, well-being and outcomes for their children, youth, families and communities.
Partnership and Indigenous Engagement also houses the Intergovernmental Relations Team (IGR), which supports MCFD's relations with other governments. This work involves negotiations with federal, provincial and territorial governments on policies and issues related to children and families.
IGR advances the ministry’s priorities at intergovernmental tables for social services and maintains relationships with provincial and territorial governments to inform each other’s work, best practices and research. IGR also has working relationships with federal officials in Ottawa and monitors national policy and budget statements to determine if there are opportunities for investments in MCFD’s priority areas.
IGR offers analysis and advice, supports the minister and assists the Premier’s Office when meetings or forums of federal, provincial and territorial leaders address issues related to children and families.