Supreme Court upholds federal Indigenous child welfare law

Decision affirms Indigenous Peoples’ inherent right of self-government and protection of their children

On Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Bill C-92, a federal child welfare law, is constitutional. (File photo)

By Kierstin Williams

Canada’s highest court has ruled the federal government’s child welfare law is constitutional, affirming Indigenous Peoples’ jurisdiction over child and family services.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Bill C-92, An Act Respecting First Nations, Métis and Inuit Children Youth and Families, reversing a 2022 Quebec Court of Appeal decision that declared the law partially unconstitutional.

Bill C-92 became law in 2019 and recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ inherent right of self-government over the protection of their children, grants Indigenous legislation the force of federal law and outlines national minimum standards of care.

In a Friday afternoon press conference, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed spoke about the ongoing tragic reality of the overrepresentation of Inuit children in care across the country.

“Bill C-92 pushes back against those realities, pushes back against colonial attitudes towards taking children away from their families, and pushes the Canadian state to recognize representatives of Indigenous Peoples, Inuit rights-holding institutions and organizations along with First Nations and Metis to take care of our children and to implement self-determination in this field,” Obed said, speaking to reporters outside the House of Commons.

In its 2019 appeal of C-92, the Quebec government argued the law allowed Ottawa to overstep its authority, infringe on provincial jurisdiction and recognized Indigenous Peoples as a third order of government.

Nunavik Inuit organization Makivvik Corp. welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision, calling it a “major victory for Inuit and the well-being of our families, children and youth.”

“The decision reflects what we have always said and known, which is that we have an inherent right to self-determination, especially as it concerns child and family services,” Makivvik president Pita Aatami said in a news release.

“Today’s ruling reinforces the importance of implementing Indigenous rights and respecting our jurisdictions.”


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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Flabbergasted on

    Implementing Indigenous rights and respecting our jurisdiction says pita adami. How can he, as the president of the Inuit owned makkivik corporation deny Inuit to run for makkivik positions such as president that do not speak the Inuit language but their parents and grandparents are Inuit. Doesn’t he understand the traumatizing effects it had on our grandparents then past it down to their children inturn past it down to the following generations that followed. I guess they too want to be similar to the pq abd other dictator s of the world. Such a shame.

  2. Posted by Colin on

    This decision will be a death sentence for many Indigenous children. First off, you have to ask why so many need child welfare in the first place. The regrettable answer is that many family environments are astoundingly unsatisfactory.

    Here’s a major underlying or causational challenge. Pauktuutit, the national Inuit women’s organization, published Kina Ijksimjaq—The Hidden Face, Child Sexual Abuse. Their research found, among much else, that sexual abuse sometimes starts in infancy, it’s perpetrated by family members, and it’s taboo to talk about it. They’ve estimated that some 75 percent of all girls are molested by the age of fifteen, as well as a large number of boys.

    The judges ignore the fact that every child’s situation is different so you have to evaluate both where each child is coming from and where each child is going to. This decision advances the unbelievable delusion that Indigenous administration will maintain national standards.

    • Posted by Baller on

      I agree with your assessment, I work in the system as a professional that sometimes helps parents and I volunteer as a foster placement home. Children are in bad places because of bad families. Now we can all debate until we are blue in the face why this is the reality and what caused it, but it is the reality.
      That said, I disagree with your conclusion that this is a bad decision for indigenous kids needing care. I agree that generally speaking indigenous orgs have no practical ability to run their own child services. Many will never touch it, NTI has never expressed an interest – it is a bad area to be in for criticism for indigenous orgs who really only know how to point fingers at government while not running their own operations fairly or transparently (commenter noting the language discrimination for Makivik, it’s also same for NTI i think). However, this development means the federal government will heavily fund this sector. It is historically underfunded by provinces and territories who are cash strapped on health and justice generally. With Canada saying it will pay, it means child welfare systems will be more funded broadly, which could mean better results for kids. No guarantees, but I can’t see a situation where more funding results in worse results.
      The real question is what next. Healthcare? Education? Lands? Fish and Wildlife? Criminal law? Alcohol/Drugs?

    • Posted by Not what the decision was about on

      Valid concerns, but the decision was not about whether the bill and its conveying of child welfare powers to Indigenous groups/governments is good policy. It was about Quebec’s contention that the bill intruded on its jurisdiction. Very different issue.

    • Posted by Tulugaq on

      If you read the decision you’ll understand that the issue is mostly about jurisdiction. Yet, the court took into account the fact that the non Indigenous child protection agencies were used to eradicate Indigenous people as part of the Canadian genocide plan to get rid of the “Indians”, which includes Inuit under the 1939 decision of the SCC in re Eskimos.

      Further, the court recognizes international law and the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples (UNDRIP) that clearly states Indigenous peoples have the right to self determination and to care for their children. The Canadian record in child protection is atrocious and is partly responsible for the chaos in which it left Indigenous communities. There is no evidence whatsoever that would suggest Indigenous child protection agencies would do worse than colonial agencies. A number of First Nations have prevailed themselves of C-92 and they are doing well, much better than provincial agencies.

      This is all part of the resurgence of Indigenous peoples and of decolonization. The courts are likely to go much further after Indigenous title to land and child protection – self determination will touch most other aspects of government including justice that is still so colonial in Nunavut.

      • Posted by Don’t Understand on

        What are these ‘colonial’ agencies? The Europeans have been gone a long time.

  3. Posted by Tom on

    Nathan obed is a joke ! We don’t need someone like him! Who does not live up north now travels to all Inuit land and who doesn’t talk with Inuit him self

  4. Posted by Eskimo Joe on

    Inuit have now come full circle to legally be able to abuse their children for discipline and not be jailed 8 months in an institution that doesn’t match cultural identity reform. Grandma adaption agency 100% approved by the Supreme Court. baffled flabbergasted brain cells


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