This is page numbers 6391 – 6418 of the Hansard for the 17th Assembly, 5th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was services.

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Committee Report 18-17(5): Report On The Review Of Bill 47: An Act To Amend The Child And Family Services Act
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, Mr. Moses.

Alternatives to Apprehension

The committee commends the Minister for including a new provision requiring an application for an apprehension order to be accompanied by a sworn statement listing the alternatives to apprehension that were considered. The provision is meant to curb the frequency of apprehensions and to ensure that child protection workers have availed themselves of the least intrusive measures. All too often in the Northwest Territories, families lose their children instead of getting help.

The committee approached the department about an additional provision which would clearly identify the measures taken to facilitate kinship care, including any provision of financial support, and why those measures proved insufficient to prevent an apprehension. The Minister concurred with this motion at the clause-by-clause review.

In addition, responding to a query from a front-line worker, the committee confirmed that any statement listing alternatives to apprehension would be supplied by affidavit and that the rules of evidence would apply.

Kinship Care

During the committee’s public hearings, residents stated repeatedly their desire for a “family first” approach that will give extended family members, especially grandparents, the right of first refusal whenever a child is in need of protection or care. A companion request was for extended family members to receive financial compensation when they care for children on an informal or temporary basis. According to one wearied grandmother who has fostered several grandchildren, “I’m tired and I’m angry. This government is actually going backward. When are things going to change for the better?”

In a similar vein, community residents strongly and repeatedly expressed their desire to see more children remaining in their families and communities of origin and within their cultures. To this end, the committee noted Section 2(f) of the act, which states that child protection measures must promote family and community integrity wherever possible, and Section 3(c) of the act, which states that determining the best interests of the child must include consideration of the child’s cultural, linguistic and spiritual upbringing and ties.

In an attempt to address residents’ concerns within the scope of Bill 47, the committee sought an amendment to the provision that requires an application for an apprehension order to include a statement of alternatives that were considered. The amendment will require that the statement also include a list of any financial supports provided to extended family members to help maintain the child. It is the committee’s hope that this provision will, in appropriate cases, result in the courts rejecting the application and ordering financial support be provided to family members who are willing to care for the child. Recognizing that this amendment does not mandate the provision of financial support for kinship care, the committee noted that these statements will have extra weight because they must be supplied by affidavit.

The committee feels it cannot overstate the degree of concern over perceived deficiencies of the current arrangements, especially when grandparents step in to care for grandchildren and find themselves drained of their personal and financial reserves. Indeed, the discussion surrounding kinship care led Members to conclude that the Child and Family Services Act should be completely revised in the 18th Assembly. Specifically, Members want to see comprehensive new provisions to address kinship care and family-preservation strategies. Potential amendments could include revisions to the preamble so that kinship care is given a prominent place throughout the act. Another example would be a new provision authorizing the court to place a child with a member of the extended family as an alternative to temporary custody.

Youth Services

The committee recalled one of its core findings in 2010: that young people aged 16 to 19 are disadvantaged in our system, to the point where their human rights are compromised. The gap in services for this age group was first raised in 1977 and remains to this day. The changes proposed in Bill 47 allow the director of child and family services to offer the same services to youth as are offered to children, and to extend the director’s parental responsibility for permanent wards to the age of 23.

Like many stakeholders, the committee was pleased to see new provisions for youth services. However, the committee notes, the provisions are largely discretionary. Members are therefore unconvinced that the department will actually follow through on the provision of these services. As a case in point, a number of discretionary provisions to provide youth services already exist in the act and yet these services have largely been denied to young people as they age out of the system.

The committee noted that youth who have been through the child protection system are at a much higher risk of becoming homeless, developing addictions and mental health issues, becoming involved in crime and committing suicide. Accordingly, Members would like to see a much broader range of services offered to these youth. Multi-departmental teams should be set up to support these high-risk youth, and the teams should be comprised of experts in areas such as psychiatry and mental health, literacy and career counselling, nutrition and crime prevention.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pass the reading of the report to my colleague Mr. Yakeleya. Thank you.

Committee Report 18-17(5): Report On The Review Of Bill 47: An Act To Amend The Child And Family Services Act
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Ms. Bisaro. Mr. Yakeleya.

Committee Report 18-17(5): Report On The Review Of Bill 47: An Act To Amend The Child And Family Services Act
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

Norman Yakeleya Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Child and Family Services Committees

The committee’s 2010 report included a core recommendation to set up and fund child and family services committees in every community, as set out in the act. Only one community, Fort McPherson, has ever had a child and family services committee, although provisions were first made for them in the act nearly twenty years ago. The lone Fort McPherson experiment was fragile and short-lived.

During the public review, the Minister clarified that these expanded roles in communities would be performed on a voluntary and unpaid basis. Members were uniformly displeased to hear this and their dismay was shared by scores of private residents. The committee concludes that the unpaid and voluntary status of child and family services committees would be an impediment to laypeople’s involvement and would not make the committees more viable.

In the midst of the review, the committee wrote to the Minister and asked if serious consideration had been given to allocating meaningful resources toward this important community-based work. Regrettably, no reply was received. Concluding that the proposed provision to expand roles is empty of substance, the committee prepared a motion to eliminate it. The motion received the concurrence of the Minister.

The committee wishes to note that the motion to eliminate an expansion of duties for child and family services committees was initially a gesture of protest. Upon further deliberation, however, Members concluded that the model has never proven to be viable. The committee is therefore urging the department to introduce a separate bill to remove all provisions pertaining to child and family services committees in the act and, further, urging the department to investigate viable alternatives for involving community members in the child protection process. The committee notes, for example, that New Zealand and a number of Canadian jurisdictions have had success in their use of family group conferences.

Notifying Aboriginal Organizations

Bill 47 includes a new provision which requires Aboriginal organizations to be notified in advance of an apprehension hearing or youth protection hearing. While the Information and Privacy Commissioner expressed concerns about the privacy implications of this provision and called for tighter restrictions, the committee did not agree, noting that companion provisions already exist in the act.

A number of representatives from Aboriginal organizations expressed confusion over the purpose of the notification provisions and, specifically, what they are expected to do with the information once it is received.

The committee therefore urges the department to establish a protocol with Aboriginal organizations for handling sensitive information. The goal should be to strike a balance between the rights of Aboriginal governments to know what is happening to their children, on the one hand, and the privacy rights of children and family members, on the other hand.

Right to Legal Counsel

The committee commends the Minister for the new provision requiring the director of child and family services to inform clients of their right to legal counsel. However, the committee wanted to see stronger obligations. The Minister agreed to a motion to amend which places a positive obligation on the director of child and family services to facilitate clients’ access to legal counsel and, where appropriate, the services of an interpreter. In the committee’s view, this additional provision merely codifies what should already be happening in practice.

Mr. Speaker, I will now turn the report over to Mrs. Groenewegen.

Committee Report 18-17(5): Report On The Review Of Bill 47: An Act To Amend The Child And Family Services Act
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Yakeleya. Mrs. Groenewegen.

Committee Report 18-17(5): Report On The Review Of Bill 47: An Act To Amend The Child And Family Services Act
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

June 3rd, 2015

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Recommended Actions

The Standing Committee on Social Programs recommends the following courses of action:

1. that the Department of Health and Social Services completely rewrite the Child and Family Services Act in the 18th Assembly, with renewed emphasis on kinship care and strategies oriented toward mediation, prevention, early intervention and family preservation;

2. that the Department of Health and Social Services take stronger measures to keep children within their families and communities of origin, including devoting additional funding for prevention, early intervention and family-preservation strategies;

3. that the Department of Health and Social Services move swiftly and assertively to build capacity in the area of mediation across the Northwest Territories;

4. that the Department of Health and Social Services cover the cost of hiring and training mediators in order to facilitate more collaborative and favourable outcomes;

5. that the Department of Health and Social Services establish a protocol with Aboriginal organizations for handling sensitive information, striking a balance between the rights of Aboriginal organizations to know what is happening to their children and the privacy rights of children and family members;

6. that the Department of Health and Social Services act immediately to introduce a bill to remove all provisions pertaining to child and family services committees in the act;

7. that the Department of Health and Social Services investigate viable alternatives to child and family services committees that will promote community involvement in the child protection process;

8. that the Department of Health and Social Services investigate the approach whereby the problem parent is removed from the home instead of apprehending the child;

9. that the Department of Health and Social Services provide community-based workshops and healing camps to parents and families as a cost-effective alternative to sending people out for treatment or counselling;

10. that the Department of Health and Social Services work toward building people’s capacity to parent effectively and competently; and

11. that the Government of the Northwest Territories engage in discussions with UNICEF to examine whether this jurisdiction is doing to enough to recognize and promote children’s human rights.

Recommendations

Recommendation 1

That the Government of the Northwest Territories provide a comprehensive response to this report within 120 days.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I pass the reading of the report over to Mr. Moses.

Committee Report 18-17(5): Report On The Review Of Bill 47: An Act To Amend The Child And Family Services Act
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. Mr. Moses.

Committee Report 18-17(5): Report On The Review Of Bill 47: An Act To Amend The Child And Family Services Act
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the members of the Standing Committee on Social Programs.

Conclusion

The Standing Committee on Social Programs thanks all stakeholders who provided comments on Bill 47 or attended the public hearings.

The committee advises that it supports Bill 47 as amended and reprinted and presents it for consideration to Committee of the Whole.

Motion To Receive Committee Report 18-17(5) And Move Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, that concludes the presentation of our report; therefore, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Range Lake, that Committee Report 18-17(5), Report on the Review of Bill 47: An Act to Amend the Child and Family Services Act, be received by the Assembly and moved into Committee of the Whole for further discussion.

Motion To Receive Committee Report 18-17(5) And Move Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

The motion is in order. To the motion.

Motion To Receive Committee Report 18-17(5) And Move Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

Some Hon. Members

Question.

Motion To Receive Committee Report 18-17(5) And Move Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Question has been called. The motion is carried.

---Carried

Committee Report 18-17(5) is received and moved into Committee of the Whole for later today.

Mr. Moses.

Motion To Receive Committee Report 18-17(5) And Move Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to waive Rule 100(4) to have Committee Report 18-17(5), Standing Committee on Social Programs Report on the Review of Bill 47: An Act to Amend the Child and Family Services Act, moved into Committee of the Whole for consideration later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Unanimous consent granted

Motion To Receive Committee Report 18-17(5) And Move Into Committee Of The Whole, Carried
Reports of Standing and Special Committees

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Committee Report 18-17(5) is moved into Committee of the Whole for later today for consideration.

Item 13, reports of committee on the review of bills. Item 14, tabling of documents, Mr. Miltenberger.

Tabled Document 260-17(5): Environment And Natural Resources Framework For Action 2012-2016 December 2014 Status Update
Tabling of Documents

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to table the following three documents, entitled “Growing the Northwest Territories: Supporting Population Growth of the Northwest Territories,” “Background Research: Growing the Northwest Territories - Supporting Population Growth of the Northwest Territories” and “Environment and Natural Resources Framework for Action 2012-2016, December 2014 Status Update.” Thank you.

Tabled Document 260-17(5): Environment And Natural Resources Framework For Action 2012-2016 December 2014 Status Update
Tabling of Documents

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. Mr. Abernethy.