Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services :: Part F: The Provision of Child Welfare

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Office of the Chief Coroner

Publications & Reports

The Office of the Chief Coroner’s Death Review of the Youth Suicides at the Pikangikum First Nation

2006 – 2008



Part F: The Provision of Child Welfare in the North and to Pikangikum

F1. Tikinagan Child and Family Services

Tikinagan Child and Family Services is the provincial child welfare agency that provides service to 30 First Nations communities in remote North West Ontario, including Pikangikum. The communities range in size up to 2,500 people, with the total area’s population being serviced by Tikinagan of approximately 17,000. Most of these communities are only accessible by air. The agency’s head office is located in Sandy Lake First Nation and the administrative office is in Sioux Lookout. There are about 30 offices located in the communities serviced by the organization.

Picture 10. Communities serviced by Tikinagan Child and Family Services.

Picture 10. Communities serviced by Tikinagan Child and Family Services.

In addition to the area of jurisdiction designated by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Tikinagan also has agreements with Kenora-Patricia Child and Family Services to provide child protection services to the First Nations populations in Sioux Lookout, Lac Seul, and Red Lake, and with Thunder Bay CAS to provide child protection services to Aroland. The agency also serves Pickle Lake, Allanwater and Savant Lake.

Mandate

Tikinagan Child and Family Services is one of 53 Children's Aid Societies in Ontario mandated under the Child and Family Services Act to protect children from harm. The organization is also mandated by its Chiefs to provide services that are culturally sensitive to the needs of Aboriginal children, families and First Nations. The organization is accountable to the Chiefs and to the communities for this responsibility. Tikinagan was not a member of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS), through which training for Ontario’s child protection workers is delivered, but recently rejoined on approximately November 1, 2010.

Tikinagan’s model of service, Mamow Obiki-ahwahsoowin, means “everyone working together to raise our children.” This vision of working with families is meant to ensure that parents, extended family members, Elders, community resource workers and First Nation leaders are all involved in decisions about protecting the children.

The Tikinagan Vision is: “The Creator entrusted First Nations with the sacred responsibility of protecting our children and developing strong families and healthy communities. The Chiefs created Tikinagan to support and strengthen our children, our families, and our communities. The future of our communities is our children. They need to be nurtured within their families and communities. As such, community responsibility for child protection is an essential aspect of Native self-government.” (Tikinagan.org)

Services 2009-2010

In 2009-2010, Tikinagan conducted 926 investigations, provided ongoing service to 413 families and had 570 children in care at year end. There are 381 approved foster homes and 60 specialized foster homes under its jurisdiction.

Challenges

One of the challenges facing Tikinagan in meeting its mandates is staffing shortages. The recruitment and retention of trained and qualified staff is a priority for the organization as such gaps impact on the service provision to families and communities. Other issues are transportation and weather challenges; the agency expends significant resources on flying workers in and out of communities to conduct protection investigations and to provide ongoing service. Workers and managers experience difficulty in the completion of paperwork and meeting administrative timelines due to work load pressures and limited access to technology and computers. Pikangikum provides unique challenges for the provision of child welfare services.

Pikangikum

Pikangikum is a community of about 2,400 people. On paper, Tikinagan has a Service Manager, a Direct Supervisor and approximately 18 workers assigned to provide child welfare services in Pikangikum. A full staffing complement is rarely, if ever, a reality. There are about 200 open protection files in the community and approximately 80 children in care. A great deal of energy is expended developing and maintaining relationships with the Chief, Band and Council members in addition to the families within the community. Efforts are made to include them in case conferences and service planning in order keep the children safe in the community, whenever possible.

Some of the difficulties experienced by staff include threats, vandalism, and lack of cooperation from community members. Staff members share a small office space and there is no cell phone service in Pikangikum which can be, at minimum inconvenient, at worst, a safety issue. Attempts have been made to recruit staff from the community, however it is difficult to locate and retain interested or qualified applicants. For staff not residing in the community, the remoteness and related weather and transportation conditions pose barriers to completing tasks.

Common issues experienced by the children and families in Pikangikum:

• Concerns about supervision, security and safety

• Lack of attachment

• Vandalism

• Chronic substance abuse (alcohol and solvents)

• Domestic violence

• Sibling violence

• Neglect and poverty

• Abandonment

• Abuse

• Substandard housing

• Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder/Effects

• Boredom and lack of activities

• Poor school attendance

• Suicide

• Adolescent pregnancy

A recent Society Internal Review on one youth’s death by suicide found the following:

“Dozens of children in Pikangikum First Nation have committed suicide. The majority of those children, like this child, came from families in which the following factors were present:

1. both parents are chronic alcoholics;

2. chronic spousal violence between the parents is present;

3. children are frequently not adequately supervised and neglect is apparent;

4. another family member or close friend has committed suicide;

5. the child who is at risk to suicide attends school sporadically or not at all; and

6. the child who is at risk to suicide is known to be a chronic solvent abuser.”

Society’s reviewers have noted that:

“the community is remote; its approximately 2,500 full time residents are largely unemployed; housing is substandard; 95% of the homes are without sewer or water; alcohol and solvent abuse, and gasoline sniffing in particular, is epidemic throughout the community; spousal violence is a common occurrence in many families; school attendance is poor across all age groups; and outside of school there is no programming-formal or otherwise- to distract children from sniffing solvents, committing petty crimes, and committing arson out of anger or boredom. It is important to note that only 400 of the 800 children who are eligible to attend school in Pikangikum can in fact attend school; the school has room for only 400 children.

The Society is chronically understaffed at Pikangikum and staff turnover is extremely high owing to the extreme working conditions that exist in the community. Gas sniffing, other solvent abuse and excessive alcohol consumption provide relief from an ever-present climate of hopelessness and despair that characterize Pikangikum First Nation. It should therefore come as no surprise to professionals from outside this community that many of the professionals who dare to work in Pikangikum are at continuous risk of being overwhelmed by a malaise that comes from limited community-based resources and a profound sense of helplessness in facilitating change for children and their families”.

(Source: Office of the Chief Coroner, Paediatric Death Review Committee, June, 2010.)

Demographics and Challenges

There are 70-90 babies born each year in Pikangikum (44 from January-July 2010). Most of the children and the adults speak the Ojibwa language; not all staff can communicate with them. While there is a high school in the community, a large number of children do not attend and there are very few youths who go on to post secondary education. Many of the community members live their entire lives in Pikangikum and never leave the community. In the recent past, the elected leadership in the community has been fraught with turnover relative to other First Nations in the north and this instability has interfered in relationships and agreements that require consistency.

Youth who are known to be “sniffers” congregate in groups and roam the community; their sometimes violent and unpredictable behaviours while high contribute to safety concerns for others. Small children have been seen with bags over their faces and professionals and other community members feel powerless to intervene. After-hours duty can be dangerous.

Some of the issues facing residents are not openly acknowledged or discussed within the community. For example, at least one youth who committed suicide was believed to have been struggling with issues of sexual identity. It is believed that sexual abuse, incest and teenage pregnancy are not uncommon. However, sex education was removed from the school’s curriculum many years ago. The perception is that sexuality or sexual matters are “taboo” subjects for discussion.

Youth Suicide

The number of youth suicides is a growing and recognized concern for staff and others, however, the topic is not one that is discussed openly and solutions are difficult to reach or agree upon. There are limits to the mental health services available to the youth of Pikangikum and Nodin is the only mental health agency providing services to the families and youth in Pikangikum and it cannot keep up with the demand for its services due to its own resource limitations. At times, Tikinagan finds itself as the default recipient of referrals for children and families requiring mental health services. Tikinagan receives referrals that are more appropriately suited for mental health interventions rather than child protection interventions, particularly suicide attempts by children and youth. The organization does not have the resources, training or expertise to manage some of these very complex cases, nor should it be asked to do so. Suicide attempts brought to the attention of staff should be directed to health care professionals immediately, and managed under their care accordingly. Tikinagan’s role should be directed toward identification of children at risk for suicide, and appropriate and prompt referral. However, at times they are identified as the only resource in the community to assist, and become the defacto apriori default provider.

Some parents turn to the Society to place children in care under a Customary Care Agreement in order to access solvent abuse treatment programs outside of the community. With the child out of their care, the parents do not receive the Child Tax Credit, a financial hardship for most families and may pressure the Society to return the child to the family before the treatment is completed. If parents are not involved with the Society for protection concerns, they can access treatment through the band-operated Pikangikum Solvent Abuse Program and continue to receive the Child Tax Credit. To date, the effectiveness of the Pikangikum Solvent Abuse Program is considered limited.

This is an untenable situation for both the children and youth and Tikinagan. A comprehensive community-based solution must be developed.

Provincial Child Welfare Standards

Issues related to the remoteness of the communities, staffing, resources and the extent of the social problems impacting the families and the community provide many challenges. While there are approved kinship and foster homes within the community, at times, the supply cannot keep up with the demand. For example, in 2009 approximately 50 children, deemed to be in need of protection, were removed from their homes. Many, if not most, had to be relocated to foster homes in other northern communities such as Kenora. This large influx of children into care set off a series of events which resulted in community reaction and exacerbated the already chronic staff shortages and need for additional resources. As a result, Tikinagan issued an urgent call for assistance from the other child welfare agencies in the province for experienced child protection staff to help handle the backlog of cases. Unfortunately, this request met with very limited success as recruitment of even temporary staff members proved problematic.

Compliance with provincial child protection standards is problematic. With staffing levels as they are, the Society frequently does not have front line staff to manage cases; files are assigned as “sitting” cases to the Unit Supervisor who attempts to visit the higher risk cases on an irregular basis. In the fall of 2010, there were 131 “sitting” cases in Pikangikum, 60 of them considered to be high risk.

A State of Perpetual Mourning

Pikangikum has been described as a community “in a state of perpetual mourning.” Death halts the community; when a member dies, there is no school, no business, and no activities. Funerals are often held at the school and the deceased are frequently buried on the family property. Tikinagan reported 38 Serious Occurrences to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services involving youth suicide occurring from 2000-2009; 16/38 were from Pikangikum. Most children or youth growing up experience the suicide of a close family member or friend at least once. Tikinagan has committed its staff to training that will assist in the identification of children-at-risk for suicide within the context of Pikangikum First Nation. In Pikangikum, perhaps more than anywhere, the child welfare balancing act of “least intrusive action,” while keeping children safe from harm, is a difficult challenge.

A Society Internal Child Death Review recommended the following: “Tikinagan should engage the extended family system and community leaders in the development of an intervention plan that not only mitigates the risk of harm to the children but as well reduces their risk of suicide.”

Recommendations

Tikinagan Child and Family Services

  1. The Tikinagan Child and Family Services should establish, as one of its priorities, the recruitment, training and retention of qualified staff (frontline, administrative and management) to assist in the provision of services, compliance with provincial standards and the protection of children within its catchment area, particularly in Pikangikum.
  2. The Tikinagan Child and Family Services should be supported by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) in its attempts to recruit, train and retain qualified staff to perform child protection duties.
  3. The child welfare capacities of staff should be enhanced through orientation, ongoing training and supervision. Benchmarks should be established for caseloads, required documentation and timelines, and audited for compliance.
  4. Staff of Tikinagan Child and Family Services in Pikangikum should have access to an office, telephones and computers, including the software and capabilities required to complete standardized child protection documentation when working in Pikangikum and like remote communities.
  5. In addition to basic child protection training, staff members should be offered specific training in topics such as Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Suicide Prevention, Solvent Abuse and Engaging Families and Communities.
  6. Tikinagan and Nodin Child and Family Intervention Services should be stakeholders in the development of Pikangikum’s Community Suicide Prevention Program.
  7. Tikinagan has identified that in some cases, more intrusive action is required and its own recommendation is supported: “… Pikangikum First Nation Chief and Council should pledge to support Tikinagan’s protection mandate by recognizing that removing children from their families and community may save children’s lives.” Ways and means of addressing the financial hardship arising from the loss of the Child Tax Credit for children no longer in the care of the family should be considered and addressed to ensure that the best interests of the child are being met.
  8. Tikinagan should endeavour to maximally utilize its membership in the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) to allow its staff access to the resources and training provided by the OACAS.

Sections F2-F7 were written by Dr. Donald Auger and edited by Dr. B. Lauwers

F2. Pikangikum: A community in crisis

Pikangikum is a community in crisis. First Nations people living in northern Ontario communities such as Pikangikum are the poorest of the poor in Ontario. Most of them are on welfare and almost all families live well below the established poverty line for families in Canada as defined by the standards set by the federal government. Most studies indicate that the majority of Aboriginal people live in extreme poverty. For this and a myriad of other reasons, there is a high level of despair among community members. This was noted by the consultants who completed the Northern Remoteness Study, which included Pikangikum:

“Meetings with the Chiefs and Councils revealed a general level of despair over the lives of their children and grandchildren. Community services to support their children, in most communities, are practically non-existent. Many children and adults suffer from solvent abuse, and alcoholism, with little opportunity for treatment. The rate of suicide is far above the provincial average. When children are not able to remain in their own homes, there are few alternatives for them. It is very difficult to recruit foster homes when housing shortages are so severe and the rates paid to foster parents do not adequately cover the costs involved in caring for the children. The result is that many children are moved far away from their families and communities. The pain and despair in the voices of the Elders when they tell stories of their grandchildren, who have either died through suicide or have been removed by the CAS, are heartbreaking. The despair is so great and the feeling of hopelessness so overwhelming that there is little energy to even attempt minimal steps to improve conditions, even if the resources were available to do so.”1

There are a disproportionate number of children in the care of Tikinagan Child and Family Services. The number of children in care in relation to the total population of 0 to 18 year olds is so high that it represents the largest disproportion of children in care in Ontario. There is effectively no school. Classes are held in portables (mobiles), and it is believed that there is not enough space to hold all of the children of school age and that a number of children do not attend classes. Children and youth are often out late at night and truancy is high. Substance abuse is very high. The major addictive substances used by community members, from young children to older adults, include solvents and alcohol. Many members use these substances to excess and the experience of Tikinagan workers is that solvents and alcohol are involved in the majority of instances where children are taken into care and may also be involved in many of the deaths. The community continuously experiences the deaths of its members. There have been a large number of infants and young children who have died while in care. There are many accidental and unnatural deaths. There is a disproportionate number of youth who have committed suicide in the community. The number is so high that it too, represents the largest disproportion of youth suicide in the Province. Suicide ideation permeates normal conversations among youth.

F3. The Development of Child Welfare in Ontario

The first Children’s Aid Society (CAS) in the province was established in Toronto:

“On May 17, 1892, the CAS opened the doors of its first temporary shelter at 18 Centre Street. It accepted children who had been abandoned, or whose parents needed temporary relief from their responsibilities; neglected or deserted children; juveniles awaiting trial or those who had been convicted of crimes. The society’s first president: John Joseph Kelso.”2

After the creation of the Toronto Children’s Aid Society, there were two periods of development – the first period occurred during the period from 1891 to 1912 when sixty (60) CAS’s were created throughout the Province. The second period occurred during the 1980s and 90s when five new societies were established to provide services to northern Aboriginal communities, with a sixth being created in 2004 in downtown Toronto.3

Provincial child welfare services were extended to Indian Reserves following major changes to the Indian Act in 1951. The changes included a section (now Section 88) that provided for the application of provincial laws of a general nature to “Indians on reserve.” This change allowed Children’s Aid Societies to apprehend children from Indian Reserves. As a result of this change there were exceedingly large numbers of Indian children who were taken into the care of a CAS. Many of these children were eventually placed for adoption with non-aboriginal parents around the world. This is generally known as the “60s scoop” even though it occurred throughout the period from 1951 to about 1980. For example, in 1980 there were just over one thousand Aboriginal children in the care of CAS’s, with more than half of them in the care of Kenora-Patricia Children’s Aid Society.4

Aboriginal leaders thought it important to stop this process and take control of child welfare themselves. They wanted to stop the loss of children, and the destruction of the family, the community social fabric and culture that occurred through this process. In 1981, the Chiefs of Ontario Indians passed a Resolution denouncing these laws and calling for a means for Indian communities to look after their own children. In 1984, the Child and Family Services Act was amended and the new Part X of the Act allowed for the creation of child welfare authorities and societies. Not long after, several incorporated groups were recognized under Part X as “child welfare authorities” and later, as societies.

F4. Cultural Tension

The “Anishinabek” nation is comprised of the Ojibwa, Cree and Oji-Cree people. There is a certain amount of cultural tension that arises from the fact that the Anishnabek have always had methods of dealing with child welfare matters within their communities, but the provincial Child and Family Services Act displaces the long-existing Anishnabek system. Many Anishnabek say that the child welfare rules that have been imposed on them are not culturally relevant, that they have their own rules, and that they have a right to establish and control their own child welfare system. They believe that their rules need only be recognized within Ontario as a culturally valid, legal alternative method of caring for children.

The Ojibwa, Cree and Oji-Cree people, the Anishinabek, have lived in northern Ontario and other places since time immemorial. Each group has its own separate and distinct culture. Like people in other cultures, the Anishinabek have traditional practices, customs and rules related to the family, including marital relations, adoption and child care. One of the major components of the Anishnabek rules for child welfare is that the members of a child’s extended family unit must take responsibility for ensuring that children are looked after and kept safe under a complex set of “kinship-obligations.” These methods are rooted in the culture and are inseparable from it. The Anishnabek believe that their system is as valid as child welfare practice under the Child and Family Services Act because it has existed in the community since as long as they can remember. They believe that many of the problems that occur within the community are merely local problems and can be handled by members of the extended family and other community. They believe that this system is more relevant because it is grounded within the culture and everyone knows the rules.

In most reserve communities, these traditional or customary child care practices are still in place and still operate. This is so, even in areas where the child welfare system is well established and operates within the community. These traditional practices, customs and rules are followed and understood by everyone in the family and community, and each person plays a role and carries a responsibility for upholding these cultural practices. They say that these traditional practices, customs and rules are Aboriginal rights which are protected under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution.

Through the process of colonization, Aboriginal cultures have undergone great changes resulting in a loss and reduction in the traditional practices and customs. This has resulted in a huge number of problems for families and individuals, including the deterioration of the family unit, and a feeling by individuals that they have lost their identity and sense of belonging to the community. In order to ensure a strong sense of identity and belonging, individuals must regain and retain healthy links to family and community. The Aboriginal child and family services agencies across the province are committed to providing services to families and children that will ensure the safety of the child; assist the family to regain their traditional practices, customs and rules, especially those related to the family, child care and adoption; and assist individuals to regain a physical, psychological (mental), emotional, and spiritual balance. This will strengthen the culture, the communities, families and children and their connectedness.

Community members believe that having workers from outside the community coming in to deal with child welfare matters is a poor way to deal with things. They see this as a means of shifting the responsibility for the care of children to people from outside their community and their culture. The leaders say it is time for them and their community members to take back their responsibilities. They say this is an essential part of having control over the child welfare system. Once people assume their responsibilities, they will regain control and be able to deal with problems in a culturally relevant manner using traditional methods. Currently, the Government of Ontario has no plans to create a separate system of care for Aboriginal children and youth. The MCYS has engaged the Association of Native Child and Family Service Agencies of Ontario regarding funding to support the harmonization of child welfare tools so that they are more culturally relevant.

Recommendation

Ministry of Children and Youth Services

  1. It is recommended that the Ministry of Children and Youth Services establish a fund for the documentation, development and implementation of Anishnabek child welfare laws, similar to the fund established by a previous Minister in 2007, and that the fund be made available through the office of the Chiefs of Ontario.

F5. The Functions of a CAS

Section 15 of the Child and Family Services Act allows the Minister of Children and Youth Services to designate an approved agency as a children’s aid society for a specified territorial jurisdiction and for certain functions. The functions of a CAS are set out in Section 15. (3) of the Act:

• Investigate allegations or evidence that children who are under the age of sixteen years or are in the society’s care or under its supervision may be in need of protection;

• Protect, where necessary, children who are under the age of sixteen years or are in the society’s care or under its supervision;

• Provide guidance, counselling and other services to families for protecting children or for the prevention of circumstances requiring the protection of children;

• Provide care for children assigned or committed to its care under this Act;

• Supervise children assigned to its supervision under this Act;

• Place children for adoption under Part VII; and

• Perform any other duties given to it by this or any other Act.5

The “duty to report”:

Section 72 of the Child and Family Services Act requires anyone who has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection must promptly report the suspicion and the information upon which it is based to a children’s aid society.6 The definition of a “child in need of protection” includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect and risk of harm. This section of the Act applies to all members of the public, particularly professionals who work with children. When anyone makes a report or referral to a children’s aid society, an investigation of the report is carried out, with follow up where necessary. There are a large number of referrals that come to Tikinagan during each fiscal year. It is noted that about forty percent (40%) of these referrals relate to children living in Pikangikum.7

F6. Children in Care (CIC)

When parents drink they sometimes abandon, neglect, and abuse their children. When this occurs, CAS workers step in to care for the children. The result of this involvement is that the number of Aboriginal children across the north who are in care is much higher than the provincial average. There are a disproportionate number of Aboriginal children in care (CIC’s) in all areas of Ontario. Seventeen per cent (17%) of all children in care in the province are of Aboriginal descent. The rate per hundred thousand of Aboriginal children in care in Ontario is 2,875, while the rate for all children in Ontario is 640. Thus, the rate for Aboriginal children is about four and a half (4.5) times the provincial rate (see Table below).

All Children and Youth in out-of-home care 2007 (children in care of CIC’s)8

Area

CIC

0 - 18 population

Rate per 100,000

Canada

67,706

7,378,376

920

Ontario

18,763

2,931,745

640

Within Tikinagan’s catchment area, the rate per hundred thousand is 6,345, or about ten (10) times the rate for the province; at Pikangikum, the rate per hundred thousand is 9,497, or about fifteen (15) times the provincial rate and just over ten (10) times the rate for all of Canada (see next table). During the summer of 2009, about sixty (60) children were taken into care at Pikangikum. This represented 6.7 % of all of the children 18 and under in the community.

Aboriginal Children and Youth in out-of-home care 2007 (children in care of CIC’s)

Area

CIC

0 - 18 population

Rate per 100,000

Ontario

3,209

111,6159

2,875

Tikinagan

585

9,220

6,345

Pikangikum

85

895

9,497

Northern Superior

215

4,057

5,300

Source: Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Your Children’s Aid, Child Welfare Report 2009/10. Toronto, 2010.

The rates per hundred thousand for Aboriginal children in care in Ontario are higher than for any other province or territory in Canada (see table below).

Aboriginal Children in Care in other parts of Canada 2007

Area

CIC

0 - 18 population

Rate per 100,000

Northwest Territories

395

12,810

3,080

Yukon Territory

178

7,212

2,470

Manitoba

7,241

297,004

2,440

Source: Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Your Children’s Aid, Child Welfare Report 2009/10. Toronto, 2010.

Currently, Tikinagan has approximately six hundred children in care, with between eighty-five (85) and ninety (90) children in care at Pikangikum. The majority of the reasons children are brought into care relate to Section 5 of the Eligibility Spectrum – “caregiver capacity.” The reasons would include situations where the caregiver has a history of abusing or neglecting children, demonstrates an inability to protect children, has a problem, or lacks the skills to provide the necessary care. In most of these situations, the use of solvents, alcohol or drugs is evident, which only serves to exacerbate or accentuate any difficulties a parent may have in caring for his or her children.

The recent report of the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare made the following observations:

Aboriginal children are overrepresented in the in care population. Although Aboriginal children comprise just 2.5% of the total Ontario child population, they represent approximately 14% of children in care. Whereas the population of children in Ontario has been relatively unchanged in recent years, Aboriginal communities are experiencing very high rates of growth of their child populations. Between the 2001 and 2006 census periods, the number of Aboriginal children reported increased by 20%. The combination of population growth and difficult socioeconomic conditions has resulted in a very different trend for Aboriginal children in care than the trend discussed earlier for Ontario as a whole….

The majority of Aboriginal children in care are placed outside of their communities, often with non-Aboriginal families and often hundreds of kilometres from home. Aboriginal leaders cite housing as a major barrier in many communities to the availability of foster placements for children. SAFE and PRIDE are also seen as presenting significant barriers to enabling more of their children to remain in their communities and with aboriginal families. Many aspects of these tools are seen as inappropriate and even offensive to Aboriginal communities. Several standards are viewed as being impractical standards for foster homes in Aboriginal communities. As examples, the requirement that a foster child have his/her own bedroom is impractical in most communities. Similarly, the use of a woodstove, the primary source of heat for many remote Aboriginal communities can be a disqualifying factor for a foster home. Of fundamental concern among Aboriginal leaders is the continuing cultural and community impact arising from the sheer number of Aboriginal children who are in care in homes outside their own communities. These concerns are shared by the Commission.10

There are significant and unique considerations that will need to be addressed to ensure that Aboriginal children who need to be in care for periods of time receive the support they need while remaining connected to their families, communities and culture.11

F7. Funding

Federal and Provincial Legislative Jurisdiction

The Province has the legislative authority, or jurisdiction, under Section 92 and other sections of the Constitution Act, 1982 to establish laws of general application in relation to social services. The main clauses of Section 92 include Sec. 92 (13) Property and Civil Rights; 92 (16) Matters of a Merely Local or Private Nature in the Province; and, 92 (7) Establishment of Charities. Over the years, the Province has passed a host of social service legislation relating to general welfare, mental health, and child welfare.

The first provincial child welfare law, An Act for the Protection and Reformation of Neglected Children, was passed in 1888. This law was the precursor to the present-day Child and Family Services Act (CFSA). The CFSA, like most other provincial laws, contains clauses allowing for the passage of Regulations for the administration and operation of the Act. All provincial laws and the programs set up under these laws, including the Child and Family Services Act, are applicable to all residents of the province regardless of their age, gender, race, or ethnicity. The right to receive services under these programs is guaranteed by Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights (equality rights).

Provincial laws may be superseded in instances where the federal government has the legislative authority under Section 91 and other sections of the Constitution Act, 1982 to pass a law on the same, or similar, topic. An example of this is found in relation to “Indians.” Canada has the legislative authority to pass laws related to “Indians and lands reserved for Indians” under Section 91(24) of the Constitution Act. Canada exercised its legislative authority under this head of power and passed the Indian Act in 1876. The Constitution Act prevents the provinces from passing laws directly in relation to Indians and lands reserved for Indians. Section 88 of the federal Indian Act, allows for the incorporation of a provincial law as federal legislation if it does not target First Nation members and does not undermine some fundamental aspect of First Nations culture or life (“Indianness”). Provincial law is also applicable if there is no competing federal legislation under Section 91(24) that supersedes it, which would include By-Laws passed by First Nations under Section 81 of the Indian Act. Any general provincial law is also subject to the impact of Section 35 of the Constitution Act, the “inherent right to self-government,” and to the ways in which the courts, particularly the Supreme Court of Canada, have interpreted Section 35 to include the concepts of “accommodation” and “consultation.”

The status Indian population is entitled to a variety of services and programs provided by the federal government as a result of fiduciary obligations arising from the Indian Act and the Treaties. (The Treaties signed in the Tikinagan catchment area are Treaty # 9 in 1905 and Treaty # 5 in 1910). Some of these programs and services are only provided to status Indians resident on reserve, while others are provided regardless of their residence. Canada has not made any provisions to directly provide child welfare services to Status Indians.

The Indian population, whether Métis, Status, Non-status, On-reserve, or Off-reserve is also entitled to a variety of services and programs provided by the provincial government as a result of the operation of Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (equality rights). This would include child welfare services under the Child and Family Services Act.

In Ontario, the status Indian population obtains child welfare and other social services indirectly through a federal-provincial Agreement concluded in 1965.

The 1965 Welfare Agreement for Indians12

The 1965 Welfare Agreement for Indians is a bilateral agreement between Canada and Ontario. First Nations were not consulted in relation to any of the provisions of the agreement, nor were they a party to it. The Agreement arose out of the Federal-Provincial Conference held in 1963. One of the matters discussed was “charting desirable long-range objectives and policies applicable to the Indian people...

and it was determined that the principal objective was the provision of provincial services and programs to Indians on the basis that needs in Indian Communities should be met according to standards applicable in other communities; AND WHEREAS Canada and Ontario in working towards this objective desire to make available to the Indians in the Province the full range of provincial welfare programs.”

The intent of the Memorandum of Agreement Respecting Welfare Programs for Indians was to provide the full range of provincial welfare programs to Indians in the Province. Pursuant to this agreement Canada reimburses Ontario for a share of the costs of four major social welfare programs provided to Indians, including Ontario Works, Child and Family Services (CFS), Daycare and Homemakers services. The cost sharing is determined according to a formula contained in Section 3 of the Agreement. Under the formula, about 95% of the cost of the eligible program delivery is subject to reimbursement by Canada and the remainder of the direct cost is covered by Ontario. The province pays the indirect costs for administration, expertise and the provision of standards; the indirect costs total about 15% of the direct costs. The province pays for the services on an up-front basis and is then entitled to seek compensation from the federal government according to the formula.

The federal obligation under the Agreement to compensate the Province for eligible program costs has been open-ended for the past forty-five years. The costs associated with providing the four programs covered by the Agreement are limited to the services specifically noted for each program in the Schedules to the Agreement. While there is no cap on the annual federal contribution, the federal government has made attempts to limit the open-ended nature of the funding commitment. An example of this is seen in relation to child welfare where the funding for the Band Representative function under the Child and Family Services Act was terminated in 2003.

The definition in the Agreement of who is an Indian also limits the federal obligation. An “Indian” is defined in Clause 1. (1) (a) of the Agreement as “a person who, pursuant to the Indian Act, is registered as an Indian, or is entitled to be registered as an Indian;” and an “Indian with Reserve Status” is an “Indian who is, i) resident on an Indian reserve; ii) resident on Crown land, or in territory without municipal organization in the Province, or iii) designated as such by the Minister of [Indian Affairs and Northern Development];” (Clause 1. (1) (c). Clause 1. (2) provides:

Where an Indian with Reserve Status moves to and commences to live in a municipality in Ontario, he shall continue to be deemed as an Indian with Reserve Status, for the purposes of this Agreement, until such time as he has actually lived for a period of twelve consecutive months in that municipality.

Clause 2. (1) provides that,

“Ontario undertakes during the term of this Agreement, . . . to extend the Aggregate Ontario Welfare Program [which includes child welfare] to Indians with Reserve Status in the Province.” The effect of these clauses is to limit the federal obligation to pay eligible program costs only for those Indians who are eligible, or, those “Indians with Reserve Status”, who have not lived more than twelve consecutive months in a municipality.

Northern Remoteness Study, 2006

In 2006, a study of the child welfare funding model implications for Tikinagan Child and Family Services (Tikinagan) and Payukotayno: James Bay and Hudson Bay Family Services (Payukotayno) was funded through the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) and conducted by the Barnes Management Group (the Northern Remoteness Study).13 Part I of the study focused on service gaps in providing child welfare services, including foster care, child in care services, protection, human resources, transportation, translation and interpretive services, emergency measures, physical property and technology. The information was gathered during site visits to the communities of Pikangikum, North Spirit Lake, Sandy Lake, Webequie and Marten Falls First Nations in the Tikinagan catchment area, and to the communities of Moosonee, Moose Factory and Fort Albany First Nations in the Payukotayno catchment areas. The second part of the study made a number of recommendations which were developed in conjunction with the Remote Funding Sub-Committee of the OACAS Funding Advisory Committee.

The major recommendation of the study was to establish a Remoteness Funding Model with the objectives of:

• Allocating resources based on differences in the costs of providing child welfare services and addressing inequities.

• Enabling the agencies to meet extraordinary costs.

• Investing in activities which would contribute to reducing/removing the root causes.14

It was also recommended that the following actions be implemented:

• Compute and apply a “Remoteness Factor” to ramp up baseline funding at the agencies.

• Create an “Extraordinary Cost Fund” for each agency.

• Invest in activities that would contribute to reducing/removing the root causes of the high costs of operations.15

A computation for each agency was prepared using the proposed Remoteness Funding Model. The calculation used a “weighted average Remoteness Factor” as a multiplier to the provincial average funding factors linked to service volumes to determine a “target funding factor.” The difference between the target funding factors and the current funding factors was then applied to the 2006-07 Submission Estimate Volumes to arrive at a revised baseline funding for each agency. The results of this calculation suggested substantial increases to the funding allocated for each agency due to remoteness and child population. The MCYS identified what they felt were methodological concerns about the report including that it had been written prior to the implementation of the Child Welfare Multi-year Funding Model.

Each of these agencies continues to struggle with the high costs in the north and the transport of personnel, equipment and supplies and files. In 2010/11, Aboriginal CAS’s received $8.5 million in new dedicated funding to assist with meeting their unique needs.

Recommendations

Ministry of Children and Youth Services

  1. The Ministry of Children and Youth Services should implement the recommendations contained in the Northern Remoteness Study on behalf of Tikinagan, Payukotayno and other northern agencies. In the alternative, if the MCYS can not endorse and comply with the recommendations of the Northern Remoteness Study, it should undertake its own review of the costs associated with the provision of child welfare services in the north of Ontario. This review could be undertaken as a component of the current Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare. It should accurately reflect upon the cost of providing service to remote and fly-in First Nations communities, and the significant and substantive challenges that providing child welfare services to First Nations encompasses. It should ensure that children’s aid societies providing service to First Nations communities have unique and adequate funding to provide that service to provincial standards, or as closely approximating the level of service provided in other jurisdictions in Ontario as is reasonably possible.
  2. The Ministry of Children and Youth Services should establish for each region an extraordinary cost fund and guidelines for distribution of those funds.

An even greater burden is created in child welfare by extraordinary spikes in service volume within a community. A good example of this occurred at Pikangikum in the summer of 2009 when about sixty-five (65) children were taken into care. This extraordinary spike more than doubled the number of children in care from the community. The child welfare staff members who provided service to the community were overwhelmed. In addition to already high work loads due to the shortage of staff, the existing staff members were required to provide services to the additional children and families. Spikes in service volume have occurred at different times in communities within the Tikinagan catchment area. Similar service spikes have also occurred at other aboriginal agencies. For example, between January and May 2008, Dilico Anishinabek Family Care experienced a spike in service volume of 70 children, and more recently in January and February, 50 additional children were taken into care.

An extraordinary cost fund would be of benefit to all Children’s Aid Societies in northern Ontario, whether Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal. Emergencies, extraordinary events and huge rises in service volume frequently occur at all agencies, particularly the Aboriginal agencies. The current budget and allocation process does not provide immediate funding for spikes in service volume. Increases to a budget do not catch up to spikes in service volume for about two years. This places an agency with spikes in service volume in a predicament; does the agency try to cope with the increased volume using existing staff, thereby increasing their case loads, or does the agency hire additional staff, thereby placing the agency in a deficit position?

F8. Concluding Remarks

Tikinagan Child and Family Services is required to provide service to extremely challenging clients in remote areas of the province. The clients themselves often do not have even the basic necessities of life such as adequate housing, running water and safe, affordable food sources. To this, is added the complexity of trying to administer child welfare services where the client may not speak English, in a community that can only be accessed by airplane, in poor weather conditions. The Society has encountered great difficulty in identifying and retaining adequately trained staff. Resources, both human and fiscal have been areas of great tension.

Pikangikum First Nation represents all these challenges in the extreme. As the Society is but one of a few service providers to the community, they find themselves in the unenviable position of trying to mitigate a series of compelling difficulties, such as domestic violence, parental substance abuse, or solvent abusing suicidal youth, with limited to no community resources or supports to assist them. They have become the default provider for many absent services, which are easily accessible and exist in southern Ontario.

Currently, there are approximately 200 open files with approximately 80 children in care from Pikangikum, a community of 2,400. Lack of adequate housing and overcrowding has created a situation whereby children in care must be sent out of the community to foster homes far away. This has been a source of ongoing tension between the First Nation, Chief and Council and the Society.

Tikinagan should continue its efforts on behalf of the Pikangikum First Nation. Without doubt, it provides stability and oversight for the well-being of the many “at risk” children in the community, in the most extreme and challenging circumstances.

1 Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS). Barnes Management Group Inc. Northern Remoteness: Study and Analysis of Child Welfare Funding Model Implications on Two First Nations Agencies. Tikinagan Child and Family Services and Payukotayno James Bay and Hudson Bay Family Services. December 2006, p. 4.

2 Kieran, Sheila. The Family Matters, Two centuries of family law and life in Ontario. Key Porter Books, Toronto, 1986, p. 73.

3 Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS). Your Children’s Aid, Child Welfare Report 2009/10. Toronto. April, 2010. Appendix A. pp. 49-51.

4 Brubacher, Maurice. Coming Home, The Story of Tikinagan Child and Family Services. Sioux Lookout, Tikinagan Child and Family Services, 2006.

5 Ontario. Child and Family Services Act. R.S.O. 1990, as amended. Section 15.

6 Ontario. Ministry of Children and Youth Services. Reporting Child Abuse & Neglect, It’s Your Duty. Toronto, 2005.

7 Ibid., Section 72.

8 Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Your Children’s Aid, Child Welfare Report 2009/10. Toronto, 2010.

9 Health Canada, First Nations and Inuit Health, Ontario Region. Drug Utilization Reports, 2007-08. Ottawa. May, 2009.

10 Emphasis added.

11 Future Directions for the In-Care Services in a Sustainable Child Welfare System, Working Paper No. 3, December 2010. p. 12.

12 Canada. Memorandum of Agreement Respecting Welfare Programs for Indians. Ottawa, 1965, p. 1.

13 Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS). Barnes Management Group Inc. Northern Remoteness: Study and Analysis of Child Welfare funding Model Implications on Two First Nations Agencies. Tikinagan Child and Family Services and Payukotayno James Bay and Hudson Bay Family Services. December, 2006.

14 Ibid. Part II, p.8.

15 Ibid. Part II, p.9.