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Children and Youth advocate clarifies comments

Children and Youth advocate clarifies comments
Saskatchewan Children and Youth Advocate Corey O'Soup. Submitted photo.

Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth is clarifying comments made earlier this week that were decried by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Thursday.

Corey O’Soup told CTV news that First Nations and Métis groups need to be asked whether they are ready to take on child welfare jurisdiction for Indigenous children. FSIN vice chief David Pratt suggested the comments questioned FSIN’s preparedness to handle child welfare. He said he found the comments personally offensive.

“The advocate unequivocally supports our First nations reclaiming complete control of their own child welfare system and has complete confidence in the 17 Firs nation child and family services agencies across the province to take care of our First Nation children,” O’Soup’s office said in a media statement.

“I believe that we as First Nations people have the education, knowledge, skills and abilities to love, care for, and teach our own children and youth, but most importantly I believe that we have the inherent right to be in complete control of our own child welfare system, O’Soup was quoted as saying in the media statement.

The advocate has taken this stance publicly in the past, and has been outspoken since his appointment, the statement continued.

O’Soup spoke with FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron to clarify and reiterate his position that his office supports the right of First Nations people to regain control of their own child welfare system.

“In my role as the Advocate for Children and Youth, it is my mandate and responsibility to ensure the safety of all children in Saskatchewan who are in care or receiving services under the provincial government,” O’Soup said.

“This is a responsibility that I take very seriously, and whether those children live on or off reserve, they deserve to have an independent voice speaking up for them as decisions are being made about them and their future. It is public knowledge that both systems struggle to find enough homes, families, and adoptive parents to take in and support our most vulnerable children, a majority of whom are First Nations. We have had far too many instances in the past of our most vulnerable children ending up in overcrowded foster homes, hotels and other unsafe situations, and ensuring that both systems are prepared and resourced to take on this crucial responsibility is my duty to all the children of Saskatchewan. I will continue to work in partnership and support our First Nation and provincial systems as they seek to find safe, loving and caring homes for all of our children.”

The back and forth between the advocate’s office and FSIN occurred after FSIN leadership called for a moratorium of adoptions of First Nations children after Premier Scott Moe apologized for the Sixties Scoop. The group said that in light of incoming federal legislation, First Nations groups and agencies would be ready, willing and able to take on child welfare for First Nations children in Saskatchewan and beyond.