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

A sani-dump station is coming to the frontage road off Okanagan Landing Road. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
New Vernon sani-dump station raises a stink among neighbours

Temporary relocation to Okanagan Landing with future plan at former Kin racetrack

The Wild Oak Cafe in Armstrong is one of the available squares in the Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce's Bingo game to support local businesses. (Facebook)
Bingo boosts Armstrong eateries

Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber launches #BoostOurBiz featuring bingo card which would win you prizes

Vernon Fire Rescue Services will conduct a controlled burn in the Foothills area Friday, April 16. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATED: Controlled Foothills burn cancelled

Vernon Fire Rescue Services had planned for a controlled burn in Foothills on Friday, April 16

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP are looking for the rightful owners of two standup paddleboards seized in an investigation March 19, 2021. (RCMP)
Is this your SUP?: Vernon police

Two standup paddleboards seized by police to be returned

Vernon’s Allan Brooks Nature Centre opens for its 21st season Saturday, April 17. (ABNC photo)
New season set to bloom at Vernon nature centre

The Allan Brooks Nature Centre on Commonage Road celebrates its 21st season in 2021

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among other ventilation measures

Hikers are still able to climb to the top of Giant’s Head Mountain in Summerland, but the paved road to the upper parking lot will be closed from 7 a.m. to noon and all day on Sundays. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Summerland park partially closed to vehicle traffic

Giant’s Head Mountain Park gates will be closed to cars until noon

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

Young cyclists from Quebec have not been riding single file on Naramata’s narrow and windy roads, causing the ire of locals worried for their safety and theirs. (Dan Moskaluk)
Quebec cyclists bad road behaviour causing stir in Penticton

The young cycling group illegally riding two-abreast on Naramata’s narrow roads

MP Todd Doherty took to Facebook after his family recently received threats. (Todd Doherty, MP Facebook photo)
‘I don’t run and I don’t hide’: Cariboo MP says RCMP probing threats made against family

Todd Doherty has also notified House of Commons Protective Services

Two men walk past a sign on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calls for government transparency in COVID data continue as B.C.’s 3rd wave wears on

Social media, where both information and misinformation can spread like wildfire, has not helped

The music video for “Green and Blue” featured a Willington Care Centre in Burnaby as well as some of the volunteers and employees. (Screenshot/Todd Richard)
‘Green and Blue’: B.C. country musician releases tribute song for front-line workers

Richard’s new single has been viewed more than 3,000 times on his YouTube channel

Most Read