Indigenous children are highly overrepresented in Alberta’s child intervention service. Recent statistics have shown that over 60% of children in care identify as First Nation or Métis. Further, Canada has an extremely unfortunate history in its treatment of Indigenous children when removing them from their homes out of concern for their safety. It has been recognised in the Sixties Scoop Settlement decision that when a home was deemed unsafe for an Indigenous child, they were often placed with a family completely outside of the community and culture in which they were raised, very frequently resulting in confusion, anger, and a loss of identity leading to lifelong challenges and hardships. The harm caused by these placements has been recognized not only in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports but also by the courts in the recent monetary awards to victims of the Sixties Scoop. Unfortunately, the placement of Indigenous children in non-Indigenous homes and with non-Indigenous caregivers continues today, and the loss of cultural security and identity is an ongoing concern for these children.
At Mincher Koeman, our lawyers are dedicated family law advocates and we have devoted a portion of our practice specifically to working with local Indigenous communities on matters concerning child protection, guardianship applications, and the Kinship Care Program. We have also been working to address the concerns of First Nation communities stemming from the application of the 1983 Supreme Court decision Racine v. Woods, which held that a non-Indigenous foster family should be allowed to adopt an Indigenous child because her attachment to the foster family had superseded her cultural identity. Despite the advancements that the Alberta government has made in prioritizing culture and identify in Indigenous child guardianship matters, this case is still considered to be valid law across Canada notwithstanding society’s and the Canadian government’s recognition that the loss of culture and identity leads to such great harm to Indigenous children and their communities.
Our family lawyers help clients to minimize the impact of this decision on their case where a family member is placed in foster care, to ensure the placement better reflects our society’s current understanding of the importance of maintaining a connection to one’s cultural identity.
When an Indigenous child becomes the subject of a child welfare investigation and is subsequently apprehended and placed into care, it can become a matter of concern for the child’s entire community. Often, when a child is placed in care outside of their culture, the Nation will seek to intervene in any court proceeding pertaining to the guardianship and well-being of a child facing these circumstances. Our lawyers work with various Nations to prepare Intervention Applications in child protection and guardianship proceedings, in order to provide the court with much-needed context regarding the importance of cultural safety and the significance of “family” to First Nations communities.
Mincher Koeman is regularly contacted by other family law firms with referrals on Indigenous family law matters. Our knowledge of this area of the law has earned us a reputation among other family law firms across the province for handling these matters with skill, care and utmost concern for the wellbeing of Alberta’s Indigenous children in care.
In addition to our family law practice, the lawyers at the firm have also become extremely knowledgeable with respect to First Nations funding proposals and grants as they impact services provided to children in need ensuring our lawyers are able to address and identify all services that a family requires to minimize the concerns the Director of Children’s Services may have.
Mincher Koeman provides a range of services specifically dedicated to the concerns of Indigenous communities across Alberta. We can help in the following areas:
Mincher Koeman‘s lawyers feel privileged and honoured to work with the local Alberta Indigenous and First Nations communities, and it forms one of the most gratifying aspects of our practice. We are committed to providing exceptional work for our Indigenous clients as we strive to continue attempts at evolving the law in Canada to catch up with present-day values. If we can be of service regarding a child welfare or guardianship matter, or if your Nation requires information and advice regarding the various governmental funding schemes to address shortfalls in funding for programs and services to address children’s needs, please contact our office to make an appointment to meet with one of our lawyers today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or by contacting us online.
© Mincher Koeman LLP 2019. All rights reserved.
Website designed and managed by Umbrella Legal Marketing