First Nations children are drastically over represented in child welfare care. As of May of 2005, the Wen:de study found that 0.67% of non Aboriginal children were in child welfare care in three sample provinces in Canada as compared to 10.23% of status Indian children. Overall there are more First Nations children in child welfare care in Canada than at the height of residential schools.
First Nations children are entering child welfare care at increasing rates. According to federal government figures the number of status Indian children entering child welfare care rose 71.5% nationally between 1995-2001.
The Canadian Incidence Study on Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS) has found that First Nations children come to the attention of child welfare authorities for different reasons than non Aboriginal children. First Nations are not more likely to experience abuse than non-Aboriginal children. First Nations children are more likely to be reported for neglect which is driven by poverty, poor housing and caregiver substance misuse.
Provincial child welfare laws apply both on and off reserves. The provinces fund child welfare for children off reserve but expect the federal government to fund it on reserve. If the federal government does not fund the services or funds them inadequately, the provinces typically do not top up the funding levels. This results in a two tiered child welfare system where First Nations children on reserves get less funding for child welfare than other children.
Repeated reports, including by the Auditor General of Canada (2008) and Standing Committee on Public Accounts (2009) confirm that federal government funding for child welfare services on reserves is inadequate and must be changed in order to ensure First Nations children and families on reserves receive a comparable and culturally based child welfare services. Although the federal government has been aware of the shortfalls in its child welfare funding for over nine years, it has implemented only modest improvements in three provinces.
For more resources visit the I am a Witness Gallery.
Information Sheets on Topics Relevant to the First Nations Child Welfare Tribunal
- United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child General Comment on the Rights of Indigenous Children
- First Nations Child Welfare Funding
- Research Summary on First Nations Child Welfare
- Child Welfare Tribunal Briefing Note
Read what INAC documents obtained under access to information say about child welfare funding on reserves