Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate

First Nations child welfare services symposium to be held (09/09/25)

NB 1423

Sept. 25, 2009

FREDERICTON (CNB) - A symposium on First Nations child welfare in New Brunswick will be held in Fredericton on Tuesday, Sept. 29, and Wednesday, Sept. 30.

The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate will be convening the symposium as part of its independent review of First Nations child welfare. Child welfare experts, academics, government officials and First Nations chiefs will participate.

"There is such a determination among the First Nations communities to improve the lives of their children," said Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate Bernard Richard.

Richard has recently visited First Nations communities across the province as part of the review.

"Now that I have heard the concerns of the community members, I am pleased to bring this extraordinary group of experts together," he said. "I hope this symposium will produce strategic plans for improving First Nations child welfare services that will also help restore the health and vibrancy of New Brunswick's First Nations communities."

One of the highlights will be a morning session on Tuesday, Sept. 29, featuring Cindy Blackstock, a leading First Nations child and family welfare expert. She is the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

This organization recently launched a complaint against the federal government that is being heard by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The complaint alleges that the federal government discriminates against First Nations children by providing them with less child welfare funding than non-First Nations children.

Other guest speakers will include Fred Wien and Nancy MacDonald, both of whom are professors of social work at Dalhousie University.

The symposium will also feature three panel discussions focused on the current challenges and achievements of the eleven First Nations child welfare agencies in New Brunswick; alternative service delivery and governance models; and the importance of culture and identity in First Nations child welfare.

Panelists will include Andrea Bear Nicholas, chair of Studies in Aboriginal Cultures of Atlantic Canada; Miigam'agan, a traditional First Nations elder; and Judy Levi, a member of the Canada-New Brunswick-First Nations Child and Family Services Tripartite Committee.

"I am optimistic that the symposium will generate concrete ideas for amending New Brunswick's First Nations child welfare system," said Richard. "Equal opportunity for First Nations children and communities will be the defining Canadian social issue of our time, and I believe that New Brunswick has the opportunity to lead the way for positive change."

While most of symposium will consist of closed working sessions, the public is invited to attend Blackstock's presentation, 8:30 a.m. - 10 a.m., on Sept. 29 in the Bicentennial Room at the Fredericton Inn; as well as the closing ceremony, 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m., on Sept. 30, also at the Fredericton Inn.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Bernard Richard, Office of the Ombudsman and Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, 506-453-2789, nbombud@gnb.ca.

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