Supreme Court upholds Ottawa’s Indigenous child welfare act, denies Quebec’s appeal

By The Canadian Press

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the federal government’s Indigenous child welfare act is constitutional, affirming that First Nations Peoples have sole authority over the protection of their children.

In a unanimous decision, the court upheld the law in its entirety and erased the partial gains that the Quebec government had made at the Court of Appeal.

Ottawa’s 2019 Act Respecting First Nations, Métis and Inuit Children Youth and Families affirmed that Indigenous Peoples have an inherent right of self-government that includes jurisdiction over child and family services.

Quebec put the act to the constitutional test at its Court of Appeal, which ruled in 2022 that parts of the law overstepped the federal government’s scope to legislate.

The Appeal Court invalidated sections of the act that said Indigenous legislation had force of federal law and could supersede provincial law.

But the Supreme Court today rejected that ruling, adding that the 2019 law does not modify the constitutional architecture of Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2024.

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