Grand Chief Ed John recommended 85 things the province can do to improve child welfare for indigenous youth back in 2017. The current provincial government says Tuesday’s legislation is about fulfilling those recommendations. (CBC) The provincial government announced Tuesday they will introduce new legislation to help keep Indigenous youth out of government care.
Under the legislation, the Ministry of Children and Family Development will share more information with Indigenous communities as soon as a child goes into care.
"Social workers will have more tools to ensure Indigenous kids in care aren’t actually going into care," Minister of Children Katrine Conroy said.
"When there’s first issues, social workers can sit down with Indigenous communities and talk to them about what the issues are, and perhaps there’s a granny an auntie, an elder that can help provide support to the child and the family."
The ministry said as it stands, officials can only reach out to communities with a parent’s consent or to ensure the child’s safety and well-being.
The legislation doesn’t provide any funding to help Indigenous communities handle child welfare cases.
Conroy said B.C. is in talks with the federal government on that front. Shuswap chief pleased
Conroy said the legislation is a first step for a system that needs an overhaul.
The changes, her ministry said, are based on recommendations in a report from Grand Chief Ed John and at least one Indigenous leader is welcoming them. Kukpi7 Wayne Christian applauded the legislation announced Tuesday. (Shuswap Tribal Council) "It’s very significant, really on the ground operational processes, that will ensure that we’re there wherever our children are in need of protection," said Kukpi7 Wayne Christian a tribal chief on the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council.
"It actually is going to function in a way that’s going to help our children."
Of the 7,000 children in care in B.C., 63 per cent are Indigenous even though First Nations children make up less than 10 per cent of the population. Former children’s rep responds
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, former B.C. representative for children and youth, said she was glad to see the "relatively small" on the file announced Tuesday but said much more is needed.
"Certainly I am hopeful it is the beginning of something more significant," Turpel-Lafond told All Points West host Jason D’Souza.
Turpel-Lafond said the government "fell short" when it came to developing Tuesday’s legislation in cooperation with Indigenous leaders but said the legislation had some promise.
She said the most important things the government could do are better reflect the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls for action and include Indigenous leaders as more active partners with the ministry.
With files from Megan Thomas and CBC Radio One’s All Points West
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