Richard Gray, the social services manager for the FNQLHSSC, says their ability to share information, to give strategies and to advise and counsel First Nations communities that are interested in following this road will be “severely hampered” through the signing of confidentiality agreements. (FNQLHSSC photo)

Richard Gray, the social services manager for the FNQLHSSC, says their ability to share information, to give strategies and to advise and counsel First Nations communities that are interested in following this road will be “severely hampered” through the signing of confidentiality agreements. (FNQLHSSC photo)

Confidentiality agreements a ‘red flag’ in exercising Bill C-92, says Indigenous leader

If nations sign a confidentiality agreement they cannot speak with each other on working with their communities

By Anna McKenzie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse

Richard Gray is warning Indigenous communities against signing confidentiality agreements with the government as they reclaim authority over their child welfare systems under Bill C-92 — also known as the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, youth and families.

Gray is the social services manager with the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC), which monitors and provides oversight to ensure Indigenous groups and communities have access to “culturally-appropriate and preventive health and social services programs,” according to their website.

“This is a huge problem and we can’t allow the feds to utilize these confidentiality agreements in negotiations or discussions,” he said at a virtual gathering focused on the implementation of the Act, hosted on Feb. 9 by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

The Act establishes a framework for First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities to exercise their authority and create their own child welfare laws.

Through the Act, Indigenous governing bodies can either notify the federal government of their intent to establish their own laws, or they can request to “enter into a tripartite coordination agreement with .125Indigenous Services Canada.375 and relevant provincial or territorial governments” — as previously reported by IndigiNews.

Gray says he knows of at least one instance where a confidentiality agreement was signed as part of a coordination agreement — between Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, Canada and the province of Ontario.

He says he’s worried that confidentiality agreements could “really put a damper on our ability to share information and to give strategies and to advise and counsel First Nations communities that are interested in following this road.”

“Canada will have all the information, and once again, First Nations are left stuck on their own.”

Since the Bill came into force on Jan. 1, 2020, nine Nations have sent notice and 17 Nations have requested to enter into coordination agreements discussions, according to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).

In an interview with IndigiNews, Gray says the practice of signing confidentiality agreements is “almost a bit of a contradictory approach” because the government is “supposed to be working with the First Nations at a national level and regional level to support the implementation of coordination agreements.”

“If you sign one of these things, you can’t share any information with the AFN .125and.375 you can’t share any information with a First Nations community about things that are happening in terms of your coordination agreement discussion,” he says.

As part of the Act’s development, the AFN and ISC signed a protocol agreement in June of 2020.

The agreement established a structure to support the implementation of Bill C-92, according to a news release by the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) and FNQLHSSC.

“This agreement is a crucial step that should allow First Nations to develop effective long-term plans. This protocol ensures that Canada will work with our governments, but that the implementation of Bill C-92 will be led by First Nations,” says Ghislain Picard, regional chief of the AFNQL.

But for Gray, not being able to share how nations are doing at coordination tables puts them at a disadvantage.

He says that the federal government knows everything that nations are sharing while the nations themselves, if they sign a confidentiality agreement, cannot speak with each other on how they are working to exercise jurisdiction.

“Collectively, this is something that affects First Nations all across Canada. Why would we get into these processes where we’re hiding our discussions? Or not showing any transparency about how we’re going to work with our communities?” asks Gray.

“First Nations are going to try to get the best deals possible,” he says. “I think that one of the ways to achieve that is by sharing as much information as possible amongst First Nations.”

Gray says he wants the federal and provincial governments to respect this, “rather than trying to impose their processes on us.”

“We’ve got to break these cycles or these patterns that .125Indigenous Services Canada.375 uses and open up new processes and new ways of doing things to help one another.”

IndigiNews followed up with both Indigenous Services Canada and Wabaseemoong Child Welfare Authority for comment, but did not receive a response by the time this article was published.

The virtual gathering is part of a series on sharing best practices for implementing the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, youth and families, also known as Bill C-92. Anyone can register to attend and there is no cost. The next session is March 2, 2021.

First Nations

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Mabel Todd, 83, of the Nak’azdli First Nation, leads a group of family members and advocates of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as they walk along the so-called Highway of Tears in Moricetown, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Province, feds fund full cell service along ‘Highway of Tears’ following years of advocacy

A ‘critical milestone in helping prevent future tragedies’ after at least 10 Indigenous women murdered, missing along the route

Erin O’Toole, Conservative Party of Canada leader, answered questions during a Terrace District Chamber of Commerce event on April 6, 2021. (Screenshot/Terrace District Chamber of Commerce Facebook)
Erin O’Toole discusses Terrace issues during virtual event

Federal Conservative leader answered questions during a Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce event

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

Most Read