First Nations Family AdvocateFirst Nations Family Advocate
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs officially opened the Manitoba First Nations Family Advocate Office (FNFAO) on June 1st, 2015. The office opened in ceremony, where the office was gifted the name “Abinoojiyak Bigiiwewag” which translates to “Our Children are Coming Home”.The need for an advocacy office was determined through community consultation, where the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs hosted community engagement events in Winnipeg and Thompson Manitoba. Hundreds of First Nations community members attended the events in May 2014, where First Nations people shared the atrocities and challenges that were imposed on individuals, their families and communities. The information gathered from the community engagement sessions prompted a report entitled “Bringing Our Children Home”(BOCH). The BOCH report offered ten recommendations that would immediately address many of the issues and concerns identified in the community engagement sessions.
The office was gifted the name “Abinoojiyak Bigiiwewag” which translates to “our children are coming home.”
Information from the BOCH report was utilized to create the Bringing Our Children Home Proposal Submission that was provided to both the federal and provincial governments.
Without any funding commitments from government, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs proceeded to begin implementation of the action items identified in the BOCH Report. They began with the hiring of a First Nations Family Advocate and Assistant Family Advocate.
The First Nation Family Advocate Office is an added mechanism to implement the recommendations of the BOCH Report and ensure that support is offered to children and families. Since opening the doors, the FNFAO has completed intake for over 300 families who are fighting to have their children returned to their homes or home communities. More families, parents and grandparents continually seek the services of the FNFAO and demand for services are continually growing.In Manitoba, the challenges with the Child Welfare system are enormous. Child Welfare and the institutionalization of children is a billion dollar industry in our province. This system feeds children into other institutionalizing industries such as Justice, Health and Employment and Income Assistance. The reality is that First Nations children are beginning life as institutionalized citizens of this country.
The FNFAO is recognizing serious infractions such as compromises of human rights for both children and families. There is an immediate need for action to begin changing the system.