Bill 5: Child, Family, and Community Service Amendment Act (2024): Compliance with Court ruling

Mar 7, 2024 | 42-5, Bills, Blog, Governance, Indigenous, Legislature, Video | 1 comment

Following a Court of Appeal ruling that a section of the Child, Family, and Community Service Act, made in the Fall 2022 intruded to far into personal privacy the Minister has until April to make the change to comply with the decision of the court.


A. Olsen: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill 5, the Child, Family and Community Service Amendment Act, 2024. This bill is amending changes that were made just a couple of years ago. I think it highlights the incredible power that the Ministry of Children and Family Development has when it comes to children and families in this province.

It highlights the reality that faces a parent whose ability to parent their child is in question. It often leads to full exposure of those people. I think that, as we see from the court case that resulted from the changes that were made back in 2022, the downstream impacts that that has on people…. Trust in government. Trust in the health care system.

As we learned from the In Plain Sight report, specifically when it comes to Indigenous people accessing the health care system and under the scrutiny of the child welfare system…. Unfortunately, Indigenous people are far more involved in the child welfare system than I think anybody in this province would like to see. The implications of government intruding too far have deep ramifications for whether or not a person will want to access health care.

The implication of that, for anybody who has worked in health care in First Nations communities, is the realization that, in fact, we see many people not, then, accessing health care when they need it. That has extremely detrimental impacts on their health and wellbeing. Of course, then, that information could then be used to determine whether or not a parent is suitable to continue parenting their child. So we see the absolute vicious cycle that these laws can and may create.

[3:10 p.m.]

We hear from the parent who was unnamed but referenced in the decision from the Court of Appeal on section 96(1) last year that, in fact, their trust in government, their trust in the health care system, their trust in the information that they gave to their health care provider being kept private — a private matter between them and their health care provider — has been shaken. And the absolute tailspin that that may and can create for people has very much detrimental impact.

As we saw in the discussion in that decision, a change in this bill replacing the word “necessary,” when it comes to information that the ministry is able to collect on somebody, to information that’s “reasonably required.” We’re very interested, I think, about how the ministry intends on applying that.

I think it’s important to acknowledge the tremendous amount of discussion — I think several pages of discussion — about reasonableness. When the decision is being made on how to apply that, it will be interesting to hear how the ministry is going to go about applying this new wording of “reasonably required” and how reasonableness is going to be applied in this new instance, once this bill has the support of this House. So we look forward to the debate on that.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that the tools that this ministry and that this act gives the people on the front lines, who are often faced with astonishingly difficult decisions that they have to make. Actions that are then resulting from the tools that we give are extremely detrimental to health and well-being of children in this province, separated from their families, put into extremely isolated situations away from their families. I know the ministry is working towards trying to place children more and more with their own family members, but the people that are on the front line making these assessments have an incredibly challenging job.

As we debate that job in this House and as we often are faced with scrutinizing that work, it’s usually void of the reality that those front-line workers have to face in these terrifying decisions, really, I imagine, for them. I did want to just pause here for a moment and just make comment on the job that we have here to make that work as easy as possible and as clear as possible, that the work that we do in this House is thoughtful, and that we view it in an integrated and interconnected way.

The decisions, for example, as I pointed out, to access somebody’s private health matters, can have a spiraling effect on them and on their family and on the life chances of their children. And indeed, a decision that might be made on the fly, you know, in that moment, can indeed have life-changing consequences and intergenerational consequences. The decision to apprehend a child, the decision to access someone’s health care, the decision can lead to a deterioration of trust in government that can then lead to intergenerational impacts. I think that it’s important that we acknowledge this.

Finally, I applaud the government’s work to transition jurisdiction of Indigenous child welfare to Indigenous communities and Indigenous agencies, to delegate those and to transfer that jurisdiction.

[3:15 p.m.]

I’ll just make this comment about it, Mr. Speaker. What is being transitioned is the result of decades of a deliberate attempt to undermine the Indigenous families.

As we go forward in this effort to transfer jurisdiction to Indigenous communities, we have to recognize that we’re also transferring the detrimental work of this government to separate, to undermine language, to destroy family. So we’re not handing a perfect situation…. In fact, we’re handing over a far from perfect situation.

What my hope is, is that this ministry doesn’t have it in their mind that what they’re handing over now is the responsibility without the resources. That when child welfare jurisdiction is once again the responsibility of Indigenous parents and Indigenous communities, the resources that would be there to support those families that have been impoverished because of the decisions that have been made by this ministry in the past, that intergenerational poverty that is the result of tearing the family’s fabric out from underneath them…. They can’t now be volunteers. They must have an adequate amount of resources to deal with the intergenerational inheritance.

I just want to leave it at that, but I look forward, as my colleague previously spoke to, to looking at this bill in detail as we go through each of the clauses. Indeed, a very short bill, but we’ll go through it and see if we can understand how the reasonableness test is going to be applied. We look forward to supporting this government’s efforts and Indigenous government’s efforts in the transition of child welfare to our families and to our communities.


1 Comment

  1. Theresa Barker

    Important work to transition child welfare. May your efforts be successful.

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