Dear Mr. Miller,
specifically for you
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I write this letter to address the problems in An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, Youth and Families, or Bill C-92. I believe that the policy was a significant step towards government collaboration with Inuit, Metis, and First Nations representatives, as it strengthened the National Standards and attracted attention to the issues of minorities in Canada. However, the social protection policy does not properly work for the benefit of the Indigenous children and families and needs to be improved. Therefore, I am advocating for meaningful changes in the Act. I am sure that your position as the Minister of Indigenous Services can help me as a Social Work student to promote policy modifications to the Government of Canada.
The improvements of the Act should respond to the main weaknesses of the policy. Firstly, there is an issue with “the delegation of funding to the provinces,” which creates ambiguity regarding financing sources (Hahn et al., 2020). The conditions for financial support of Indigenous children living off-reserve under the principle of substantive equality are vague, and the parties responsible for funding are not mentioned in the document. Secondly, the policy does not explain how child welfare investigations should be conducted, so the procedures do not consider the relational needs and the role of self-determination of Indigenous children and families. The term “absence of appropriate care” applied to the cases of child neglect may not be appropriate for Indigenous families, as it only describes the unmet material needs (Caldwell & Sinha, 2020, p. 10). Thirdly, the policy lacks the procedures or recommendations for reconciliation during neglect investigations, which might be necessary for conflict resolution and re-establishment of relationships with Indigenous Canadians. The trauma of the Residential School system and the historical disadvantage of Aboriginal people might be the source of conflicts and challenges in agreements with Canada that need to be resolved.
Therefore, the Act should be modified to improve the three weak areas indicated above. Namely, the financing sources for Indigenous children’s welfare causes need to be indicated, justified, and include government commitment. Underfunding of child welfare services or delegation of financial responsibility to the provinces may be viewed as discrimination against Indigenous families and children. Moreover, child neglect investigations should consider the material needs along with “the best interests of the child’s family, community, and nation” because children are “the heart of Indigenous society” (Metallic et al., 2019, p. 5). The establishment of a specialized child neglect committee consisting of Indigenous experts might help to achieve the main goal of the policy and decrease the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in the welfare system. The introduction of the committee can also improve the understanding of the difference between authentic cases of violence and neglect versus perceived neglect due to cultural, spiritual, and religious peculiarities of Indigenous families. Finally, an independent body should be established to facilitate the resolution of disputes between Indigenous people and Canada. The body might improve the relationships with First Nations, Inuit, and Metis populations and promote agreements and collaboration with Indigenous representatives regarding child welfare issues.
Your kind participation and support of this cause can help Indigenous children to receive fair treatment and solve the problem of their overrepresentation in foster care. Please review and consider the recommendations for the improvement of the Act and reply to this letter at the address indicated below.
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The current state of An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, Youth and Families reveals the drawbacks of the policy. The problems include undetermined sources of financing, disregard for the relational and cultural needs of Indigenous children, and the absence of appropriate reconciliation mechanisms. Thus, the letter to the Minister of Indigenous Services is my attempt to advocate for the changes in the Act due to its inability to support the welfare of Indigenous children and families. Firstly, I advocate for clear and explicit indications of funding sources and federal funding commitment for child welfare programs. Secondly, I recommend establishing a child neglect committee and employing Indigenous representatives and experts for a fair evaluation of neglect cases and consideration of cultural and religious peculiarities of Indigenous families. Finally, I vote for the establishment of an independent body to resolve conflicts and disagreements between Canada and Indigenous people while improving collaboration between the parties on child welfare issues.
The Minister of Indigenous Services was selected as the target audience since his roles in the government include the implementation of Bill C-92 and financial support of the policy. Moreover, in the Mandate Letter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (2019) indicated the role of the Minister in continuous collaboration with the Indigenous Canadians on the issues of child and family welfare. The reason behind the choice of an advocacy letter to the Minister of Indigenous Services is that the written form allowed me to convey the need for improvements concisely and professionally. Contacting the Minister of Indigenous Service via a letter is a proper way to demonstrate the public initiative and concerns with the issue, as it includes relevant references which the government official may find convincing.
Caldwell, J., & Sinha, V. (2020). (Re) Conceptualizing neglect: Considering the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in child welfare systems in Canada. Child Indicators Research, 13(2), 481–512. Web.
Hahn, H., Caldwell, J., & Sinha, V. (2020). Applying lessons from the U.S. Indian Child Welfare Act to recently passed federal child protection legislation in Canada. The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 11(3), 1–30. Web.
Metallic, N., Friedland, H., Craft, A., Hewitt, J., & Morales, S. (2019). An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families: Does Bill C-92 Make the Grade? Yellowhead Institute.
Trudeau, J. (2019). Minister of Indigenous Services Mandate Letter. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.