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Aboriginal people and family law issues
Aboriginal people and family law issues

 

How does the Child and Family Services Act affect Aboriginal people’s family law cases?

The Child and Family Services Act considers the unique legal status of Aboriginal people in Canada. In family law issues, parts of the Act take into account the family's Aboriginal culture and heritage in deciding the "best interests" of a child.

This means that in decisions about Aboriginal children, the courts must consider “the uniqueness of Indian and Native culture, heritage and traditions, of preserving the child's cultural identity” (s. 37(4), Child and Family Services Act).

Are the rights of Aboriginal people different from other Canadians’ rights in family law cases?

In some areas of family law, Aboriginal people have different rights under the Child and Family Services Act. In many other areas they have the same rights as other Canadians.

Court decisions about caring for children, parenting orders, guardianship, child and spousal support, and property laws may all take a person’s Aboriginal heritage into account.

Letting your lawyer know that you self-identify as an Aboriginal person can help protect your rights.

How are child protection cases affected if you self-identify as an Aboriginal person?

The Act can also affect your rights if you are in a child welfare situation, for example, if the Children’s Aid Society has taken or is threatening to take your children into care.

In this case, the Act recognizes that Aboriginal people should be allowed to provide their own child and family services whenever possible. All services to Aboriginal children and families "should be provided in a manner that recognizes their culture, heritage and traditions and the concept of the extended family" (s. 1(5) Child and Family Services Act).

The court may consider your child’s Aboriginal identity, heritage and traditions. However, the best interests of the child are the still the most important factor when the court is making its decision.

Where can I find programs or resources for Aboriginal people in the Ontario family justice system?

There are several programs to help Aboriginal people who are dealing with the family court system:

Aboriginal family court workers

  • If you need help understanding the family court system, an Aboriginal family court worker may be able to help you. Court workers are not lawyers, so they do not give legal advice. They can provide information on family justice processes, court procedures, and more.

Talking Together – Alternative Dispute Resolution

  • This program is for members of First Nation communities in the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation territory whose children are placed in the child protection system. Talking Together is a restorative justice program based on talking circles that bring families together to work out issues and restore the family.

Giiwedin Anang – Alternative Dispute Resolution

  • This program is for Aboriginal families living in the Greater Toronto Area whose children are in placed in the child protection system. Giiwedin Anang is an alternative dispute resolution program that offers counselling by community Elders and members to bring families together to work out issues and restore the family.

Aboriginal Partner Assault Response (PAR) programs

  • These community-based educational and counselling services are available in some locations for people who have assaulted their partners.

Domestic violence

Services are available to help victims of domestic violence. If you are experiencing violence or the effects of violence, crisis and abuse, find out how to get immediate help.

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