Written by By Erica Clark, CNN
Regulations banning Indian Children’s Services for children aged 5 and younger have been suspended pending a final decision from the Canadian government on whether they should be rewritten.
The rulings were issued by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2016, calling into question how the children were being cared for on reserves as well as “certain unfounded child abuse allegations.” But Canadian legislation does not allow for civil servants to appeal court decisions — meaning that lawyers representing the children had little recourse after the judge’s decision was made.
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The union representing child welfare workers previously said the move was simply for “clarification purposes,” and the practice is also supposed to be discontinued if the state certifies an agency to provide services for minors.
“The Supreme Court of Canada issued an additional statement in July, stating that if the status quo remains, ICSS must cease caring for children under the age of 5,” Saskatchewan’s CBC news said.
The “remains” part is important: a federal lawsuit filed in the summer of 2017 has tried to make the status quo void, arguing that the ICSS is illegal. Canadian media has reported that the organization has housed more than 7,000 children over the last three years.
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Many of those children are reportedly runaways from homes with domestic abuse and emotional stress, or have not lived off reserves. Meanwhile, Nishnawbe Aski Nation in northern Ontario, which represents 117 First Nations, has said that more than 1,000 of its members have attempted suicide since 2013.
That year, children and family services experts from the Indian Child and Family Caring Society of Canada attended a training session aimed at helping child welfare workers recognize signs of youth suicide and abuse, the National Post reports.
The professionals were asked to identify vulnerable youth and build frameworks to cope with child welfare cases without prompting. But the most common response was “a lack of response,” according to the author of a report on the workshop, Rebecca MacDonald.
While there are increasing gaps between state and federal legislation, many local organizations are attempting to come up with their own solutions for child welfare issues. For example, the Canadian government has also admitted it was involved in extra-judicial adoptions of children from other states. Some of those children later learned their mothers had given birth to their siblings instead.