Perspectives on engaging the participation of First Nations peoples in the development of child welfare under self-government

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Bennett, Marlyn,
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Community consultation with the First Nations communities was envisioned in the 1994 Manitoba Framework Agreement Initiative and reflects an understanding of the importance of including First Nations communities and citizens in decision-making processes under self-government. Consultation is an important aspect to establishing self-governments for First Nations peoples and communities not only in Manitoba but also across Canada. The consultation process as envisaged by the authors of the Manitoba Framework Agreement Initiative sought to honour the spirit of First Nation traditions by including First Nations citizens in a consensus building process that would build upon the values, customs and principles of First Nations cultures whose participation in turn would form the foundations of independent governing structures with supporting legislation. How consultations have been conducted in relation to child welfare initiatives needs also to be examined, documented, perceptions shared and supported as a modern day process that reflects how decision-making is being conducted by the First Nations within Manitoba on their path toward self-determination. This research is one attempt to understand the consultation process. It focuses on some of the experiences and challenges on how First Nations citizens have been engaged in public discussions that will inform the development of contemporary First Nations governing institutions. This research combines an overview of the literature focusing specifically on self-government in relation to child welfare and First Nations people. The literature review also looks at the role First Nations peoples have played in community consultations concentrating specifically on the ways First Nations peoples and communities have been engaged to participate in other consultation initiatives carried out by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal governments and/or non-government organizations. The review of the literature is supplemented by an examination of two very specific child welfare initiatives currently underway in the Province of Manitoba, with more attention paid primarily to the Manitoba Framework Agreement Initiative. The examination of these two initiatives is then followed by an in-depth data analysis of interviews carried out with a select group of child welfare professionals from within and outside Manitoba who shared their perspectives on aspects of engaging First Nations people's participation in shaping the future of child welfare under self-government. This research will be of particular importance to First Nations communities, governments and child welfare authorities who are interested in engaging and empowering First Nations peoples' to participate in public discussions on the decision making process that might be instrumental for informing the vision, philosophy, structure and the consultation aspects of self-determining efforts of First Nations peoples.