OTTAWA, February 9, 2024
The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision today on Indigenous self-determination represents a major victory for Inuit and the well-being of our children, youth, and families. The Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, which came into effect in 2020, provides a legal framework to ensure cultural continuity for Inuit children and families.
This judgment affects child welfare laws but also every aspect of Inuit jurisdiction and the right to self-determination. The court has recognized our right to raise our children surrounded by their language, culture, history and land.
“Today, Canada’s highest court has unanimously reaffirmed our inherent right to self-govern, including the power to care for our children and youth. As a result of colonial systems, many of our families have been torn apart and have suffered devastating intergenerational trauma,” said Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
“This landmark decision, grounded in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, signals an incredible opportunity to transform socio-economic outcomes for Inuit and upholds our right to self-determination, a right that was never surrendered.”
Calling the Act an “innovative statute,” the Supreme Court highlights Canada’s responsibilities toward the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, saying the Act provides jurisdictional and legal certainty, “to remedy the harms of the past and create a solid foundation for a renewed nation‑to‑nation relationship.” ITK welcomes the clarity guiding this renewed relationship with the Crown.
The ruling also relieves Inuit Treaty Organizations (ITOs) of the immense burden of having to negotiate child welfare agreements with every province and territory. The Supreme Court has determined that child welfare laws, once enacted by Inuit Treaty Organizations, will have the force of federal law across the country.
“There is still work ahead,” said President Obed, “but we are ready to engage with governments across the country to deliver, uphold and implement these laws.”
Though we celebrate today, we cannot ignore how this appeal, and subsequent legal uncertainty, has delayed the care and well-being of Inuit children. For decades, Inuit have suffered from a lack of basic opportunities and services across Inuit Nunangat, forcing many to leave home and head South to access adequate housing, health care and social services. Far too often, it has resulted in Inuit children being removed from their homes and relocated outside of Inuit Nunangat. We look forward to the day when this is no longer the norm.