Supreme Court upholds federal Indigenous child welfare law
Decision affirms Indigenous Peoples’ inherent right of self-government and protection of their children
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.”