B.C. government implements new Indigenous child welfare director position.

Brought into effect March 7, 2024, the Indigenous child welfare director (ICWD) aims to ensure the safety, wellness, and access to community and culture for Indigenous children.

Minister of Children and Family Development Grace Lore highlighted the importance of Indigenous communities in caring for Indigenous children, emphasizing the crucial role of community, family, and culture in ensuring their safety and wellness.

“This position has been long advocated for by First Nations leadership and Indigenous partners, and continues our work to reform the child welfare system and reduce the over-representation of Indigenous children and youth in care,” said Lore.

The Indigenous Self-Government in Child and Family Services Amendment Act, also known as Bill 38, was passed into law in November 2022, paving the way for the creation of the ICWD position.

The ICWD will provide advice and oversight on key Indigenous child and family services with focus on prevention services to keep young Indigenous people in their home and connected to their communities and cultures.

The position aims to support Indigenous jurisdiction by harmonizing the rights and laws of Indigenous Peoples with provincial and federal child welfare laws as well as uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

According to the B.C. government, as of Jan. 31, 2024, there were 4,835 children and youth in care, and of that number, 3,331 were Indigenous or 68 per cent of children and youth in care.

Chief Don Tom, vice-president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, emphasized the urgent need for increased accountability and support for First Nations children, expressing hope that the ICWD position will contribute positively to addressing the ongoing crisis in First Nations child welfare.

“There continues to be a crisis in First Nations child welfare in the province of B.C., rooted in the intersecting and devastating impacts of colonialism,” said Tom.

The ICWD aims to facilitate the seamless delivery of services between Indigenous and provincial laws, as more First Nations exercise their inherent jurisdiction over their children and families.

Cheryl Casimer, political executive of the First Nations Summit, stressed the overdue necessity of the ICWD position. “It will be a significant benefit for all First Nations to have an Indigenous child welfare director who is familiar with First Nation’s histories and contexts, and the range of complex issues and policies relating to First nations child welfare.”