First Nations child welfare agencies in Manitoba have been quietly working with Ottawa and the province to bridge discriminatory funding gaps amid loud protests over a longstanding shortfall, the Free Press has learned.
"This is an opportunity to right the wrongs and prevent harm," said Tara Petti, chief executive officer of the Southern First Nations Network of Care, who is helping to steer the process.
In January 2016, a landmark Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling found Ottawa was discriminating against First Nations children by providing on-reserve Child and Family Services agencies an estimated 30 per cent less funding than what provinces give off-reserve CFS groups.
The case has become a rallying point for First Nations advocates, whose criticism has intensified as the tribunal issued three legal notices asking Ottawa to increase funding. In the 2016 budget, the feds allocated $634 million for First Nations child welfare, but most of it kicks in after the 2019 election.
Behind the scenes, First Nations CFS groups have been tallying their needs and working with both the federal and provincial governments.
Manitoba CFS agencies fall under four monitoring authorities: general, Métis, First Nations southern and First Nations northern.