Do Chiefs belong on the boards of Child & Family Service agencies?

Wanted to highlight a Nov. 6 Winnipeg Free Press column by Colleen Simard questioning the recent appointment of 7 Chiefs to the board of a southern Manitoba Child and Family Services (CFS) authority.

According to the CBC, the southern CFS authority “oversees 10 child and family agencies… [with] 4,200 First Nations children in foster care.” And even though the authority’s own by-laws forbid such political appointees, the Chiefs argue their presence on the board will strengthen accountability to their respective communities and families. But as Simard rightly asks:

What does a chief do if a member of his own family or extended family has a child apprehended? Do they get involved, or stay neutral? It becomes a total conflict of interest when that chief is on a CFS board, privy to CFS information about families he may know or be related to.

Simard is right on the money here. Most First Nation communities are small enough (we’re talking fewer than a thousand people in many cases) to make this scenario highly likely, and so far, I have yet to hear any Chief directly address this question. Failure to do so leaves them utterly exposed to accusations from the Authority’s board chair that this move is a thinly-concealed ‘power grab.’

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