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Manitoba Government News Release–The Manitoba government is introducing amendments to several aspects of the Child and Family Services (CFS) Act and other statutes that would recognize the jurisdiction of Indigenous governments over this vital area of public service, Families Minister Rochelle Squires announced today.

The proposed amendments are in response to recommendations from Indigenous leaders and CFS partner authorities and agencies, and align with federal law respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. The changes would be a significant step towards addressing the over-representation of Indigenous children and families in the child welfare system, and improving services for all families in need of CFS supports, the minister added.

“Our government remains committed to the successful realization of Indigenous jurisdiction for CFS and engaging Indigenous leadership and community partners about changes that affect their communities, as a measure of our commitment to truth and reconciliation,” said Squires. “These amendments would adapt the provincial system to be responsive to new Indigenous CFS laws.”

The proposed legislation would make changes to the provincial CFS system, providing more tools for provincial CFS agencies to preserve, sustain and restore families. Amendments are aimed at improving life-long outcomes for children by focusing on the preservation of cultural continuity and community connections for Indigenous children; prioritizing placements with family for all children; and allowing new agreement-based supports to prevent children from coming into care, the minister noted.

The legislation would also amend other provincial acts to support children who receive services under Indigenous CFS laws. This includes amendments related to health and education to ensure that caregivers have the ability to make decisions about important issues, such as a child’s health-care needs and education. Amendments would also be made to justice acts to enable Indigenous service providers to seek orders through the provincial court if they choose to do so.

The changes in the act would:
• harmonize provincial CFS law with the federal act, including the principles and service delivery standards that must be followed when providing services to Indigenous children and families, as well as extending those standards to non-Indigenous children and families where appropriate;
• provide provincial CFS agencies with access to more tools to support all children and families outside of the court process including new agreements that provide expanded voluntary supports to families, new placement options that emphasize the importance of placing children with family or community, and extending temporary orders to reduce the need to sever parental ties due to arbitrary timelines;
• clarify the jurisdiction of the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (MACY) and allow joint reviews upon request by Indigenous governments; and
• recognize alternate decision-makers for health care or education decisions when a child is cared for by an individual other than a parent or legal guardian.