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Stop Taking Our Kids

July 14, 2010 permalink

Manitoba's First Nations chiefs are speaking out against the seizure of their community's children.



Chiefs threaten boycott on devolution

MANITOBA'S aboriginal leaders want more say on child welfare issues in their communities, and they're threatening an economic boycott if the province fails to listen to their concerns.

At a news conference Tuesday, grand chiefs representing southern and northern First Nations expressed frustration at what they say is the slow pace of devolution and a growing number of children being seized from aboriginal communities.

"It is quite obvious that the public is being led to believe that the chiefs are in control of child and welfare issues," said Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Morris Swan Shannacappo, But he said that's far from true.

The chiefs want to be represented on the boards of child welfare authorities and see laws enacted to make those authorities more responsive to First Nations concerns.

"I don't have the answers on how things could be better, but I know who does have the answers and that's our life-givers in our community and they need to be consulted - our grandmothers, our mothers, our aunties, our sisters all need to be present at the table and help give solutions," Shannacappo said.

Chief Arlen Dumas of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation at Pukatawagan said the process of devolution -- in which First Nations people control delivery of their own family services -- has been effectively halted, with kids still being "clandestinely smuggled out of our communities."

The chiefs said Tuesday they're prepared to flex their communities' economic muscle if the province doesn't listen to them by Aug. 1.

"We're going to slow down the economy of the province of Manitoba," said Grand Chief David Harper of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents the province's northern First Nations. He said aboriginal people could sit on their wallets for a day or two or even weeks. There were no other details of how a threatened economic boycott might work.

The demand from aboriginal leaders comes after a massive review of Southeast Child and Family Services earlier this year raised concerns about the role chiefs were playing in CFS matters. According to that report, chiefs did on occasion try to interfere politically with agency hiring decisions and in the cases of specific kids.

Meanwhile, the chiefs are planning to embarrass the provincial government by holding a protest at the legislature during the Assembly of First Nations' annual convention in Winnipeg next week. And they also plan to highlight their differences with the province at the First Nations pavilion during next month's Folklorama.

Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press