Cowessess First Nation has become the first Indigenous community in the country to be transferred control over its child and family services.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and the Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme, were present at a signing ceremony in the community on Tuesday.
The Miyo Pimatisowin Act, asserts the First Nation’s right to care for children and families in need, the first step in the community becoming self-governed.
Chief Cadmus Delorme says while this is a huge step for the First Nation, there’s a lot of work to be done.
“The end goal is, one day, there will be no children in care, but Cowessess, we have a lot of work to do,” said Delorme. “Every day we will roll up our sleeves to make sure that every child, when we call them home, that they know where home is, and that is Cowessess First Nation, and they will walk with their chin up and be a proud Cowessess citizen.”
Delorme says while no one alive today had a role in the implementation of residential schools, it’s their responsibility to make the future better for generations to come.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says this agreement is a small step towards reconciliation, adding that a reconciled Canada is a better Canada.
“We have to not just fix the wrongs of residential schools and the impacts on your communities, but the work of reconciliation is work that must be joined by all Canadians,” said Trudeau. “Because in all our institutions, in all our ways of doing things, the echoes of those wrongheaded teachings, resonate in ways that we are only beginning to come to grips with.”
Trudeau announced the federal government will provide $38.7 million over the next two years to Cowessess to help build the new child and family program.
With this announcement coming just weeks after the discovery of 751 unmarked graves on Cowessess, Premier Scott Moe says it will help ensure that better days lie ahead.
“It’s a ray of hope for Cowessess, yes, it’s a ray of hope for other Indigenous communities in Canada, it’s a ray of hope for our province of Saskatchewan, and I would say it’s a ray of hope for our entire nation,” said Moe. “And it’s no surprise that that hope is originating right here in this community of Cowessess, this is a progressive community. Our Indigenous communities are helping, in great ways, to make our nation strong.”
The program is currently run from an existing office, but plans are in the works for a new home at the Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge.
As growth happens over the years more buildings and staff will be available in urban areas, such as Regina.