Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/3/2017 (1152 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
On Monday, federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett came to Winnipeg to talk about child welfare. She laid out tiny moccasins to represent the indigenous newborns taken into care and declared "the system is broken."
Talk about stating the obvious.
Yes, the system is broken. It has been broken for many years. The Trudeau government is just slow to pick up on that fact.
Ms. Bennett announced plans to totally transform child welfare and child and family services in Manitoba. The transformation is in conjunction with First Nations organizations across the province. Of course, no additional money is being provided.
Manitobans can be forgiven for not greeting this news with unabashed enthusiasm. This is a road that’s pretty well travelled right now.
It was 11 years ago this month that RCMP arrested Phoenix Sinclair’s mother and stepfather and charged them with her murder. The five-year-old was killed on Peguis First Nation and her death was not discovered for nine months, despite supposedly being under supervision in the child welfare system. Her case was not the first tragic and horrific story about the failures of Manitoba’s child welfare system, but it set in motion what was supposed to be the most in-depth examination and response to make the system better.
Nobody today can tell Phoenix that the system that contributed to her death has improved even one iota. And it’s not just the federal government’s fault. There are others to blame as well. Take for instance the news that Island Lake First Nations used money intended for kids in care — to fund things such as soccer and other recreational programs — to provide prizes at fishing derbies. Sure that was four years ago, but that agency remains in chaos.
In fact, the whole system is chaotic.
The Manitoba government still controls the northern child-welfare authority with a central tracking system of all kids in care that is outdated and untenable. As a result, agencies are unable to deliver the level of care expected.
The federal government introduced a new cash stream to improve the services available to help families on reserve and yet in the children’s advocate’s review of deaths of children after care, there was clear evidence the two main things needed were substance abuse treatment and help to stop family violence and neither is available.
Kids who were taken away from their parents because of violence are returned to them without any evidence the violence was ever addressed. Parents get sent to Winnipeg for alcohol treatment and the follow-up care is non-existent; the CFS workers report parents come home after treatment and celebrate by having a drink.
Now prescription drug abuse is exploding on reserves and they are completely unequipped to deal with it.
So go ahead, Ms. Bennett, sit in front of microphones with baby moccasins for effect and tell us again how "the system is broken." But this time, perhaps make sure you are willing to make an effort to find a solution.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.