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Perspectives from the field of Child and Youth Care

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CANADA

Current child welfare system often causes Indigenous kids more harm, B.C. advocate tells inquiry

British Columbia’s former children’s advocate says the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women needs to hold all governments accountable.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond told the inquiry that its final report will end up collecting dust if recommendations aren’t acted upon. She says people always endorse recommendations when final reports are released, but enthusiasm usually wanes over time.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond, the director of the University of British Columbia Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, says she conducted numerous investigations into the child welfare system in British Columbia and called it a humanitarian crisis.

She told the hearing the current child welfare system is not appropriate for Indigenous children and says it often causes them more harm.

The inquiry is holding hearings in Winnipeg this week focused on child welfare.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond said the disproportionate violence affecting Indigenous women and girls is linked with the child welfare system.

From 2001 to 2014, homicide rates for Indigenous women were six times higher than homicides involving non-Indigenous women.

“Families and women, in particular, have been impacted by not only the residential school system, but the child welfare system. Families have been so broken and need to be able to be supported to repair,” she told the inquiry Thursday.

“This is one that requires a lot of urgency because there are large bureaucracies that need to change.”

Indigenous children make up more than half the kids in care, but account for about seven per cent of all kids in Canada. In Manitoba, Indigenous children make up nearly 90 per cent of kids in care.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond said most First Nations children are apprehended because of poverty. They are placed in a child welfare system where she said they face increased risk of physical or sexual abuse.

“Those circumstances, despite the fact that we’ve become aware of (this) through public reports, they haven’t changed,” she said.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond said the recommendations will need to include a process to track, monitor and report on compliance and implementation.

By Kelly Geraldine Malone

4 October 2018 

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