FSIN chief offers to fight carbon tax — if Sask. premier helps him on First Nations child welfare

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron says he'll help Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe fight the carbon tax — if Moe helps him on other issues.

At a news conference Wednesday morning at the FSIN's Saskatoon office, Cameron called on Moe to help them on First Nations child welfare issues.

If Moe agrees, Cameron said he'd help Moe fight the federal carbon tax. Cameron said he'd also help Moe lobby for pipeline construction.

Moe was not available for an interview Wednesday but his office issued a written statement reiterating its opposition to the carbon tax and stating "the welfare of all children in Saskatchewan, including Indigenous child welfare, is of the utmost importance."

"While both issues raised by Chief Cameron are important to Saskatchewan people, they are independent of one another," the statement says. "We do not intend to politicize these issues by linking them together." 

The comments come weeks before Bill C-92 — a federal bill intended to address overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care by handing over control of child welfare services to Indigenous governments — comes into effect.

As for the carbon tax, Cameron says many First Nations people already dislike it.

"It's something that we don't support. Personally, I don't support it. When I saw that increase on my power bill, and my heating bill, I didn't like it. I thought, 'Geez, another thing to pay for,'" Cameron said.

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Federation Vice-Chief David Pratt, who sat beside Cameron at the news conference, agreed.

"We're prepared to work with the province where they need our support, but we expect their co-operation, too, as we transition" to taking more control over child welfare, Pratt said.

Moe has been a vocal opponent of the federal government's plan to price carbon, and his government has launched a court challenge against the tax.

At the Wednesday news conference, Cameron, Pratt and Yorkton Tribal Council executive director Raymond Shingoose noted there are roughly 10,000 children currently in care in Saskatchewan. Cameron said that's more children taken from their parents than during the peak of the residential school era.

Cameron lauded the federal government's passage of Bill C-92, which will come into effect Jan. 1. He says the legislation will allow First Nations more control over child welfare.

Cameron held up a copy of the FSIN's draft child welfare legislation. He said copies will be sent to Saskatchewan First Nations this week, and they can then make their own laws.

"We understand our own children," Cameron said.

"The solutions are within First Nations' chiefs and councils, our elders, our parents, our caregivers, our guardians. The solutions are there."

Cameron said the Saskatchewan government also needs to change its policies on child welfare. Only two babies were apprehended last year at birth in British Columbia, Pratt said, but in Saskatchewan that number was 324. Pratt and Cameron said that needs to change.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations represents 74 Saskatchewan First Nations.