11 people are camped outside the Manitoba legislature to protest some of the provincial government’s plans to overhaul the child welfare system. (CBC) A First Nations family advocate is on her second day of a ceremonial fast in an effort to persuade the province to rethink its Child and Family Services reform plans.
Last October, the Pallister government promised a complete overhaul of the legislation governing Manitoba’s child welfare system.
Those plans include creating government subsidies to promote permanent legal guardianship, a move opposed by Cora Morgan, the First Nations family advocate for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
She’s among 11 people taking part in the fast at the Manitoba Legislative Building this week.
"We need to build momentum because we have 12,000 children in the child welfare system and we need rapid change — it’s a humanitarian crisis," Morgan told CBC News Thursday. First Nations family advocate Cora Morgan says she wants to see positive change for children and families involved in the child welfare system. (CBC) "Right now we have children who are vulnerable and innocent and we need to do better."
Morgan says plans to expand subsidies to include people seeking permanent guardianship of foster children will only make it faster and easier for kids to be taken from their parents forever.
"Foster parents have five mechanisms of appeal if a child is taken from their homes, whereas if a child is taken from their biological parent, there is zero mechanism for appeal," she said.
"Foster parents right now, in the current system — without the reforms — have more rights than biological parents.
"With this new subsidized guardianship there’s a potential that families could never have their children returned." ‘It’s about seeking guidance’
Morgan says she would support the idea if she knew First Nations children would be living with family or extended family in their own communities.
"But that’s not really the reality," she said. "A lot of our children are in non-Indigenous homes."
Others taking part in the two-day fast include women from the First Nations family advocate office and women who were part of the ’60s Scoop who wanted to take part. It’s the third time they have done a fast since the office opened in June 2015. The protest outside the legislature, above, was being held in solidarity with the Justice for Our Stolen Children camp in Regina, Sask. (CBC) "It’s about seeking guidance and making prayers and offerings so that we can create change," Morgan said. "We want to see positive change for our children and families that are caught in the child welfare system."
The action here in Manitoba is being held in solidarity with the Justice for Our Stolen Children camp in Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan camp, which has been set up across from the province’s legislature since February, was started to protest racial injustice and the disproportionate number of Indigenous children apprehended by child-welfare workers.
Morgan said Saskatchewan is going through many of the same issues with its child-welfare system as Manitoba.
"Saskatchewan has heightened issues — they’re second to Manitoba for the apprehension of children — and they’re a province that’s similar in size and population," she said."In Saskatchewan they’re trying to do some things that are similar to what our current Manitoba government is doing."The fast was to end Thursday at sunset with a feast led by elders, Morgan says.With files from the Canadian Press
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