Cree tradition of customary adoption will finally be legalized

Share Button

Quebec government began an overdue overhaul of outdated adoption laws by introducing Bill 113 in the National Assembly October 6. The bill aims to bring more transparency to the adoption process by amending Quebec’s Civil Code and the Youth Protection Act and more importantly for the Cree and other First Nations, it would legally recognize the longstanding tradition of customary adoption.

“This is a historic step to see the Civil Code amended to recognized Aboriginal customary adoption,” Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said following the tabling of the bill.

While customary adoption received recognition in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement of 1975, provincial adoption laws didn’t officially recognized the practice. The Cree Nation Government (CNG) has been pushing for amendments to Quebec regulations concerning adoption since the 1980s as customary adoption is an intrinsic part of Indigenous culture and often necessary for the survival and well-being of young First Nations children.

“For the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, customary adoption has been practised for generations and generations, and continues to be practised today,” said Bella Moses Petawabano, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services chairperson following the announcement.


Chairperson Bella Moses Petawabano speaking at the Quebec National Assembly

“It was a matter of survival for the people for hundreds of years,” added Melissa Saganash, the CNG’s Director of Cree-Quebec Relations. “Each First Nation or Inuit community has its own methods…its own system of customary adoption. [This bill] when it’s passed into law, is going to properly attest to a customary adoption, giving it a legal effect.”

Saganash also noted the difficulties adoptees and adoptive parents within Native communities have faced within the current Quebec system, one that is shrouded in secrecy.

“Try registering a child at school, for whom you don’t have identification,” she said. “Or going to the hospital or clinic. Or just being the legal guardian of a child and having that recognized.”

If passed, Bill 113 will recognize Aboriginal customary adoptions “carried out according to a custom that is in harmony with the principles of the interests of the child, the protection of the child’s rights and the consent of the persons concerned.”

The amendments would also permit rights and obligations to be upheld between the adopted child and his/her family of origin, in accordance with tradition.

In addition to recognizing traditional adoption practices, Bill 113 seeks to allow adopted children to maintain “meaningful” connections with their birth parents, bring international adoptions into compliance with Quebec’s Civil Code and improve access to information for adopted children seeking to know more about their birth parents.

“Customary adoption is an integral part of Cree culture and identity,” concluded Petawabano. “This is a bill the Cree Nation can proudly support.”

Share Button

Comments are closed.