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  • The “perverse” system treats children like commodities and utterly fails to meet their specific needs, officials say.

    The “perverse” system treats children like commodities and utterly fails to meet their specific needs, officials say. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 December 2018
Opinion

"First Nations are ready to reform child and family services in ways that respect our rights, cultures and family structures," Perry Bellegarde said.

Ottawa’s Child welfare services are being transferred to Indigenous governments in an attempt to lower the number of native youths in foster care, officials said Friday.

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In a revolutionary break from the administration, regional officials are entrusting the care of Indigenous children to their own leaders from the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities, Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott said.

At least 52.2 percent of foster children are Indigenous and for centuries the state has worked to alienate children from their communities, culture, and traditions by forcing them into foster care or adoption. The “perverse” system treats children like commodities and utterly fails to meet their specific needs, Philpott said.

"For a century now, based on discriminatory policies of the government, we've been taking children away from their families. It started with residential schools, it continued with the Sixties Scoop and, still today, children are being taken from their families," said Philpott.

"It's going to stop. We know the dangerous path those children are on once they're entangled in the foster system...This legislation marks a turning point to say 'No more,'" the minister said.

Perry Bellegarde, assembly chief of the First Nations, said "First Nations are ready to reform child and family services in ways that respect our rights, cultures and family structures. First Nations have been held back for years by outdated laws, and we continue to experience the trauma and loss when children and families are broken apart."

Philpott concluded, “We can no longer excuse the apprehension of children where there could be something else to be done...This proposed legislation will reaffirm the rights of Indigenous children and...ensure that (they) can grow up as proud First Nations, Metis, and Inuit with a strong sense of secure personal cultural identity and better health, education, and economic outcomes."

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