First Nations, Inuit and Métis Child and Family Services

By: The Hon. Michèle Audette

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Hon. Michèle Audette: [Editor’s Note: Senator Audette spoke in Innu-aimun.]

Honourable senators, I want to acknowledge the Anishinaabe people and the members of the next generation who are here with us today.

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the landmark decision handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada on February 9, 2024, regarding An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, which you knew as Bill C-92. Thank you so much.

As senators know, Indigenous children are overrepresented in provincial child protection systems. In 2021, in Canada, 53.8% of foster children were Indigenous, although Indigenous children represent only 7.7% of the overall population of children in Canada. These children are placed with families who don’t speak their language, know nothing about their history, and so on.

Senators will also recall that Quebec disagreed with the form of the act and went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court’s ruling has now put an end to the debate, because the court unanimously declared that the act is constitutional. I thank the Supreme Court.

Opitciwan, my Atikamekw granddaughter’s community, was the first to implement a law, and we are already seeing results. Thanks to that law, since 2022, the placement rate for children between the ages of zero and four years dropped by 10%. That is a lot.

I will quote Ms. Petiquay, Director of children’s services in her community, as follows:

All of the children, 100% of them, are in Atikamekw foster families, where they can speak their mother tongue and retain their culture . . . .

That is important. Also, and most importantly:

Children feel more heard, more respected.

Personally, I think we need to move towards a positive approach of supporting and working with families. That said, it is also our duty to remember that we need to look at the financial considerations as well. That is important, because we want to keep the federal and provincial governments from passing the buck.

Things aren’t going to change overnight. It will take time, and there will be a transition, but the important thing is to remember that we have our children’s best interests and well-being at heart.


Hon. senators: Hear, hear!

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