SCO Applauds Supreme Court Decision Impacting First Nations Child and Family Services

February 9, 2024

“Today’s ruling is a win for First Nations families.”– Grand Chief Daniels


ANISHINAABE AND DAKOTA TERRITORY, MB — The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) applauds the unanimous decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada today in favour of An Act Respecting First Nations, Métis and Inuit Children Youth and Families (The Federal Act, formerly Bill C-92).

“Today’s ruling affirms what we have always known—that we have the authority to ensure our children remain close to their culture, tradition, values, language, and Nations. We will continue to prioritize our children to keep them healthy and safe based on First Nation family laws and customs,” shared Grand Chief Jerry Daniels.

The decision made in Ottawa today affirms the rights and jurisdiction First Nations have over child and family services. The Federal Act sets out principles that apply nationally, including the best interest of the child, cultural continuity, and substantive equality.

The Supreme Court’s decision means that federal law will take priority over conflicting or inconsistent provisions of other laws. This ruling is a step in the right direction toward empowering First Nations families and communities to make decisions about what is best for their children.

“First Nations have exercised jurisdiction over their children and families since time immemorial,” shared Margaret Swan, Chair of the Southern First Nations Network of Care. “This unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court will enable our First Nations to fully implement a framework that has been developed in collaboration with wisdom keepers and incorporates input from the child and family services agencies, Southern First Nations Network of Care, and SCO’s Chiefs Standing Committee on Child Welfare and Justice. Our process for supporting First Nations families and children is driven by the grassroots and is done through a process of sincere collaboration.”

As of March 2022, the Province of Quebec challenged the constitutionality of The Federal Act and asked the Supreme Court for a final decision. Today, the high court ruled in favour of the Canadian government, overturning a previous decision made by the Quebec Court of Appeal.

“It is disheartening that this challenge went all the way to the Supreme Court. Over and over again, our rights are affirmed by the highest colonial court in the land,” said Grand Chief Daniels. “As a representative of 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations, I encourage provincial leaders across the country to develop stronger relationship with the first peoples of this country. It’s time to stop challenging First Nations rights and get down to the business of creating an equitable country for First Nations children and families.”

SCO created a culturally based law template named “Waakaabit – Woksape: Working together within the circle to make good decisions for our children and families.” This template assists our 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations with the process of exercising their inherent jurisdiction over child welfare. Our organization remains focused on this process, ensuring we continue to work together to re-build our Nations, our communities, and our families—for our children, our youth, and our future generations—in a good way.


The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 First Nations and more than 87,000 citizens in what is now called southern Manitoba. SCO is an independent political organization that protects, preserves, promotes, and enhances First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the Treaty-making process.

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