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Notes for an address by the Honourable Jim Prentice, PC, QC, MP Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians announcing The Alberta Partnership On Child Welfare On Reserve Calgary, Alberta
April 27, 2007
Check against delivery
Good morning Elders, Minister Tarchuk, Chief Noskey, Chief Weaselhead, Chief Makokis, ladies and gentlemen.
I’m very pleased to be here today to announce an important new partnership.
Canada’s New Government has agreed to a child welfare partnership with the Province of Alberta and Alberta’s First Nations to implement the Alberta Response Model in First Nations communities across the province. Our government will immediately provide $15.3 million to help deliver programs. Overall, it is estimated that an additional $98 million could be provided over five years to assist in implementing this model.We are committed to making consistent progress in the areas that have the greatest impact on improving the quality of life for First Nations people. It’s particularly important that we place a special emphasis on improving the lives of children.
First Nations believe that strong, healthy families build strong, healthy communities. And children hold such tremendous potential for the future of First Nation communities. It is simply our moral duty to continually work together to ensure that children enjoy a safe, secure home environment.
When I became Minister, I also asked the department to evaluate the entire children and family services program. We know that Aboriginal child-welfare spending has more than doubled in the last decade. We need to ask important questions about whether increased funding — and higher numbers of children being placed in care — is getting the best results for First Nation children, families and communities.
In researching practices across the country, we’ve seen some important changes in Alberta. The Alberta Response Model stresses prevention by intervening early and making community resources available to families in difficulty. And when children have to be removed, we must ensure that they’re placed in a safe, nurturing environment – in permanent homes, preferably with family members in their own communities.
This approach sets a high standard — because it’s based on ensuring stability, and permanency for the child. And it’s been recognized as an innovative approach to delivering child welfare services to First Nations children.
The Alberta government’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act provided the foundation for these improvements. And I want to thank them for working with us to achieve further progress.
In addition to delivering better results for First Nations children in Alberta, the partnership we are announcing today serves as a model for other provinces and First Nation agencies. And our government looks forward to having exploratory discussions with provinces, territories and First Nations organizations that are seeking to introduce enhanced, early prevention programs to their child and family services on reserve.
We know that children will receive better care if we align our programs with the values and traditions of the First Nation communities in which they live. And First Nations communities want to play a more active role in making sure children have the stable home they need to learn, grow and succeed in life.
So, it’s up to all of us to work together to build the programs that will make a real difference in the lives of children. That will lead to happier lives for them, a brighter future for their families, prosperity for their communities and a better quality of life for us all.
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