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This article was published 20/3/2019 (915 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The parents of a four-month-old girl apprehended at birth appeared before media Tuesday to say Manitoba child-welfare authorities had informed them the baby had died in foster care.
The baby, born in November, had been spending one out of every three weeks with the parents at their home in Bloodvein First Nation, 210 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
Child-welfare workers showed up Monday morning to tell them their baby had choked on a bottle of formula.
"I have so many questions," the 21-year-old mother said, overwhelmed with emotion. "There are just so many questions, to which I need answers."
The parents arrived in Winnipeg on Monday evening. Tuesday afternoon, during a news conference organized by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the First Nations Family Advocate Office, they said they hadn’t been permitted to see their daughter and no one from the child-welfare agency had been in touch with them.
"We just had a visit last week. My baby was good. She was happy," the mother said. "I didn’t know that was the last time I would see her alive.
"CFS failed my daughter. They failed us, that’s how I feel."
A former child-welfare worker with Southeast Child and Family Services, also from the parents’ community, pieced together elements of the story when the couple became too distraught to speak.
Martina Fisher said it took hours for the family to find a driver to bring them south to Winnipeg.
When they got to the city, travelling with three relatives for support, the agency initially put all five in the same hotel room with two beds. Then, it separated the group, leaving the couple in one hotel and moving everyone else to another. They were reunited the next day.
The system had left the family "in limbo," Fisher said.
"I was a CFS worker for 19 years. I was a supervisor and... I was against taking children at birth. I never let that happen. When they do that, it breaks the bond between mother and child. We have to stop doing that. We should be keeping the mother as near as possible, with family."
Manitoba laws prevent the province and child-welfare authorities from releasing any information about children in care. A spokesman for the Southern First Nations Network of Care, which oversees the agency in charge of the case, said Tuesday the death is being investigated.
"It is now under review of the coroner and then the Manitoba advocate," spokesman Jim Compton said.
Winnipeg police are also investigating the death.
Families Minister Heather Stefanson issued a statement of sympathy by email Tuesday.
"Our condolences go to the extended family, caregivers and those who were involved in this child’s life. While we must respect the confidentiality of this child and their family, we share in their grief during this tragedy. We know the CFS agency and authority responsible for the child’s care are gathering information to find the family the answers it needs," the minister said.
During Tuesday’s news conference, Swan Lake First Nation Chief Francine Meeches delivered a blistering indictment of the child-welfare system, which she condemned as both racist and discriminatory against Indigenous Peoples.
"You want to know why the child was apprehended? Well, it’s become normalized. It is this judgment, in this province against our people. They don’t think we can take care of our children... CFS stems from the ’60s Scoop, from residential schools. We are dealing with the effects, the damage, and now our children are being taken from their homes."