WINNIPEG — Two social media videos show a newborn baby girl being taken from the arms of her Indigenous mother by Manitoba social workers and police — an apprehension that First Nations leaders say is all too common in a child-welfare system biased against Aboriginals.
The videos, broadcast live Thursday on Facebook by the woman’s uncle, show her sitting in a hospital bed, cradling her baby and rocking back and forth as social workers and police explain that the baby is being taken into care. A woman holds a photo of a baby during a press conference in support of the mother whose newborn was seized from hospital on Friday. The woman is crying softly and being hugged by relatives, one of whom is wailing in sorrow. Eventually, police place the newborn into a car seat and take her away.
The mother is not told when she might see her baby again.
"The video itself was disturbing and raised a number of questions, obviously, for anybody who saw it," Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott said in an interview Friday.
"It certainly begs the question as to whether or not this family was treated in a way where the unity of the family and the bond between parent and child was respected as something that had to be taken into serious consideration." A pair of baby moccasins sit on a table during a press conference on Friday. Statistics from the Manitoba government show newborn apprehensions occur, on average, about once a day in the province. About 90 per cent of kids in care are Indigenous.
The video segments, which had been viewed more than 400,000 times by Friday afternoon, offered a rare glimpse into a normally private matter. They also display a biased child welfare system, according to Indigenous leaders.
"The system that we’re subject to is not a system for our people," Grand Chief Garrison Settee, who represents northern Manitoba First Nations, said Friday at a news conference with the mother, her family and other community leaders.
"We want to take back our babies because they belong to us. They belong … in their own culture, in their own societies, among their own people."
The woman, her baby, and other family members cannot be identified under Manitoba law. A woman wipes a tear during a press conference in support of the mother who’s newborn baby was seized from hospital by Manitoba’s Child and Family Services (CFS) on Friday. The baby was taken away because of a false accusation that the mother was drunk when she arrived at the hospital to give birth, the woman’s aunt said.
The videos show family members telling social workers the accusation was not true. They ask whether the baby could stay with one of them instead of being taken away. The request is denied.
All the while, the mother is sitting on her hospital bed, cradling her baby. She recalled getting strength from her infant daughter.
"I was blindsided … and it’s just astonishing how far this had to go," she said.
"When I was holding my baby, she was actually the one who was keeping me content and strong and focused. And I’m still holding on to that." Garrison Settee, Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, speaks at a press conference in support of an unidentified mother who’s newborn baby was seized from hospital by Manitoba’s Child and Family Services (CFS) on Friday. Cora Morgan, a family advocate for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said the mother may have been targeted for a "birth alert" — a note to social workers that an expectant mother is high risk — because she had another daughter who […]
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