On July 8, 2021, the Cowessess First Nation formally signed an agreement with the Canadian and Saskatchewan governments under the country’s Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, passed 2019.
This makes them the first Indigenous community in the country to follow the terms of the legislation, which will empower them to reclaim jurisdiction based on their history, culture and laws. The jurisdiction set by the Indigenous community, as per the bill, will be recognized as federal law, to be acknowledged by legal practices like MyDefence.ca, and will take priority over provincial and family services laws.
Earlier in 2021, the Cowessess First Nation announced that they had discovered a site with 751 unmarked graves near a former Saskatchewan residential school.
The signing happened on July 6, 2021; a Tuesday, at the Cowessess First Nation Powwow Grounds, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe present to oversee and finalize the agreement with Chief Cadmus Delorme.
Chief Delorme noted that the First Nation lost jurisdiction over children in care back in 1951, with non-Indigenous law governing the final processes on the matter. The Cowessess First Nation passing Bill C-92 changed that, however, as it would give Indigenous communities greater control over child welfare in their communities while, at the same time, putting safeguards in place to ensure that Indigenous kids don’t just get whisked away to foster care.
The responsibility for children in care, Chief Delorme explains, is part of their long-term goals for self-governance as per the Inherent Rights and Treaty relationship, and is a transition plan to ensure that jurisdiction is properly and professionally transferred at their pace. The agreement is a confirmation of support from the Government of Canada and Government of Saskatchewan.
Canadian law firms like MyDefence.ca and legal practice have become aware of flaws in the country’s legal system, especially with regards to the Indigenous communities. In 2016, federal data noted how over 52.2% of kids under 15 in foster care were Indigenous, in spite of the fact that Indigenous kids only account for 7.7% of the total in the country.