Go to main menu Go to main content Go to footer

Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Climate change

BY Will Nicholls Feb 26, 2024

The expression, “when Hell freezes over,” means something will never happen. While this doesn’t apply to a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision, Hell must have gotten a little chilly.

That blast of cold air hit when the court announced that Quebec’s arguments against Canada’s decision to recognize the right of Indigenous Peoples to administer their own child welfare systems is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the federal government’s Indigenous child welfare policies. In doing so, the court dismissed Quebec’s appeal of a landmark opinion that affirmed Indigenous Peoples’ jurisdiction over child and family services.

Bill C-92, An Act Respecting First Nations, Métis and Inuit Children Youth and Families, became law in 2019. It affirms that Indigenous nations have jurisdiction over child and family services and outlines national minimum standards of care. It’s a pleasant surprise that it only took five years to make it to Canada’s highest court.

With this judgment, Quebec’s frequent use of the notwithstanding clause is not available. However, another hurdle for any Indigenous community or organization is funding for new programs. Traditionally, child welfare and other social programs are provincially funded. The court ruled that the federal government should continue its role in Indigenous child welfare. But what we don’t know is whether will funding come from Ottawa, the provinces or both?

More disturbing, however, is Quebec’s contention that the law made Indigenous Peoples a third order of government, something it staunchly opposes. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, saying it is simply an acknowledgment of constitutionally recognized rights. 

Nonetheless, t  stance subtly reveals the Legault government’s true outlook: that only some groups of people in Quebec have rights; Indigenous Peoples clearly do not enjoy rights equal to all others in the government’s view. 

Don’t forget, despite this official, publicly acknowledged discrimination against Indigenous people, the government strenuously denies that systemic racism exists here. Quebec has said the problem was never about Indigenous Peoples, but with federal overreach, and it will continue to analyze the situation. One wonders exactly what that means.

What is more surprising and warmly welcomed by Indigenous Peoples is that the court in part upheld Canada’s implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That could lead to a precedent beneficial to a great many other court cases filed by Indigenous Peoples. Strengthening UNDRIP by the Supreme Court of Canada in this manner is a true stepping stone towards reconciliation.

Many First Nations chiefs were overjoyed by the decision. “This decision ends the colonial era of Canada and the provinces controlling Indigenous child welfare. Our inherent right to protect our children and to hold them within their families and communities is reaffirmed,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

However, Quebec’s actions, coupled with its vague promise analyze the decision, makes us feel that it’s still hot as Hell here in Quebec. Climate change anyone?

LATEST ᒫᐦᒡ ᑎᐹᒋᒧᐧᐃᓐ

Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.