Chiefs wearing ceremonial headdresses sat at the front of the packed court room Tuesday as the government and Saskatoon Tribal Council faced off in Regina.
The government is trying to take back control of some 67 children that are in the care of, or under the watch of, the tribal council’s health and family services agency.
An agreement has existed between the two since 1996 but provisions for formally reporting and compliance with the agreement’s rules have never been put in place.
That has never been an issue until recently.
The two have been unable to work together which has led to the court case.
In court, the government’s lawyer argued that it has a duty to look after children. By the tribal council not reporting how many children are in care, what services they are receiving and what is being done to help them, the government argues it cannot meet that duty.
An affidavit states the government hasn’t even been told the names of the 67 children.
Earlier in June, the government had tried to access the files for the children on the reserve, but were denied access by the First Nation.
Lawyers for the tribal council argued the agreement between the council and the government was not delegated authority but a bilateral accord and should be treated as such.
The argument was also made the tribal council is not a subordinate but equal in any service delivery.
The tribal council is willing to report to government for auditing purposes but nothing more.
Outside court, tribal council Chief Felix Thomas believes the government has hurt the reputation of the tribal council with this court action.
“That’s all politics and you know, that is how you win the hearts and minds of the public,” he argued. “Our accord that we have signed has never given them delegated authority over us, if they are trying to change the rules now I don’t know why, that’s up to them.”
The government contends that 15 of 17 agencies have signed on to agreement with regard to child welfare service delivery.
Justice L. M. Schwann has reserved her decision.