Child Welfare (1-5): Current Problems

MB


November 19, 2020


Child and Youth Advocate Reports

“Are They Listening?”

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) – In 2018, without involvement or engagement of First Nations in Manitoba or the AMC, the Province of Manitoba unilaterally passed “The Advocate for Children and Youth Act” that expanded the scope and authority of MACY. As part of their expanded mandate, the MACY is now able to publicly report on the government’s progress regarding recommendations made in various reports. From 2018 to 2020, MACY identified 23 recommendations to improve government services as it pertains to children and youth. However, the compliance rate to implement these recommendations is significantly lower.

“Many of the recommendations in these reports were informed by the tragic loss of First Nations children and youth who were chronically underserved by government systems. Our First Nations children are grossly overrepresented in these systems including 90% of First Nations children in the provincial foster care system, and 80% of Indigenous youth in the Manitoba youth justice system,” stated Chief Francine Meeches, Chair of the AMC Women’s Council.

In addition to the lack of compliance, the report identified that due to the lack of comprehensive youth-focused mental health supports, the province has been utilizing Child and Family Services and the justice system to intervene in crisis situations. It was further identified that front line workers in the child welfare system are not adequately equipped to respond to high-risk interventions; as a result of a lack of training in the implementation of the provincial minimum standards under the Child and Family Services Act. “This is an issue of deeply rooted systemic racism in the Province of Manitoba, coupled with what appears to be strategic underfunding of preventive care needed to support these vulnerable children. The province of Manitoba needs to do more than perpetuate the status quo,” concluded Chief Francine Meeches.

Three critical barriers to the implementation of recommendations:

  1. Publicly release and take action on existing reviews into child serving systems, including the youth justice system review and the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education review
  2. Release an action plan with timelines to implement the youth-specific recommendations issued in the government’s 2018 Improving Access and Coordination of Mental Health and Addiction Services: A Provincial Strategy for all Manitobans (also known as the Virgo Report). In addition to an action plan and timelines, the government of Manitoba needs to commit appropriate resources to eliminate service barriers and improve mental health outcomes for children and youth, and
  3. Ensure that the four child and family services authorities and the Department of Families engage their respective legislated roles and responsibilities to ensure that training for workers and supervisors is adequately resourced, accessible, and monitored. Further, they must ensure that minimum service standards are clarified and effective, and that a quality assurance framework is developed and used to verify that all families receive the standards of service to which they are entitled. This is of particular importance during a time of significant transition with the coming- into-force of federal CFS legislation.

https://manitobaadvocate.ca/wp-content/uploads/Are-They-Listening.pdf


November 13, 2020


Child and Youth Advocate Reports

“Are They Listening?”

Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth – Issued “Are They Listening?” her first public compliance report summarizing the provincial government’s responses to the Advocate’s recommendations issued in 2018 and 2019. “While there is movement, it is disappointing to note that over a period of two years, only two recommendations for service improvements have been implemented fully, and less than half (43%) of recommendations have achieved positive compliance assessments.

Of all the government departments monitored by the Advocate, compliance levels are as follows:

Justice: Partially compliant at 50%

  • Significant improvements overseeing pepper spray use and communicating victim services benefits to eligible children and youth.
  • Significant work remains on the issues of segregation and solitary confinement use in youth custody facilities.

Education & Training: Compliance limited at 38%

  • made some improvements and taken early steps to address chronic absenteeism, suspensions, and expulsions.

Families: Mid-level compliance at 35%

  • made investments to comply with recommendations on child and youth sexual exploitation,
    have only taken early steps to address improvements to the quality assurance of child welfare services.
  • Additional areas that remain concerning include staff training and knowledge as well as outdated service standards.

Health, Seniors and Active Living: low compliance rating averaging 25%.

  • Improving mental health and addiction services lag behind and have not progressed significantly since they were issued.
  • Child death reviews and investigations continue to see this as an area with significant gaps for children, youth, young adults, and their families

The 23 recommendations were issued in the first four special reports under The Advocate for Children and Youth Act, which came into force in spring 2018. The 23 recommendations were from:

  • Documenting the Decline: The Dangerous Space Between Good Intentions and Meaningful Interventions (2018) – Circling Star,
  • In Need of Protection: Angel’s Story (2018) (38% compliant)
  • Learning from Nelson Mandela: A Report on the Use of Solitary Confinement and Pepper Spray in Manitoba Youth Custody Facilities (2019) (42% compliant)
  • A Place Where it Feels Like Home: The Story of Tina Fontaine (2019). (45% compliant)

November 4, 2021


Child and Youth Advocate Reports

“Finding the Way Back”

Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth – “Finding the Way Back: An aggregate investigation of 45 boys who died by suicide or homicide in Manitoba” between 2009 and 2018 is a special report structured to reflect the wisdom of the medicine wheel, with four chapters representing the four directions and stages of life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and elderhood. The aggregate investigation revealed common and modifiable risk factors for the young men who died, 78% of whom were identified as First Nations youth and 49% of whom lived in northern Manitoba. Risk factors included:

  • living in poverty;
  • experiencing racism and discrimination; witnessing caregiver substance use and intimate partner violence between adults;
  • involvement with the justice system;
  • poor attendance in school; and
  • problematic substance use.
  • Gang involvement was also a commonality among many of the young men who died by homicide.

Advocate makes 4 recommendations to address systemic inequities experienced by First Nations children, youth, and communities:

  • Coordinate between government and child and family services authorities to include evidence-based and culturally safe supports for parents with substance use disorders in their homes with the goal of reducing apprehensions.
  • Continue work on an Indigenous Inclusion Strategy that includes culturally appropriate school engagement initiatives tailored to Indigenous boys to help close the achievement gap and increase high-school completion rates.
  • Demonstrate development or continuation of sustainable initiatives in anti-racist education for all students, administrators, teachers, and support staff.
  • Collaborate with the Government of Canada and consult with Manitoba communities to update, fund, and implement a provincial youth gang prevention strategy.

https://manitobaadvocate.ca/wp-content/uploads/MACY-Special-Report-Finding-the-Way-Back.pdf


June 15, 2020


Government and Institution Issues

Birth Alerts

CTV News – The Province of Manitoba has announced it will end the controversial practice of birth alerts on June 30, 2020 and will instead refer vulnerable mothers and their children to social services and programs. Under the new system, Stefanson said Manitoba Child and Family Services (CFS) agencies will now be able to refer more women to programs, which will allow for the shift away from the birth alerts. The province announced it is investing $400,000 to double the capacity of the Mount Carmel Clinic’s Mothering Project (Manito Ikwe Kagiikwe) which helps connect vulnerable mothers with services and programs to support health and wellness for themselves and their children.


March 28, 2020


Government and Institution Issues

Birth Alerts

Manitoba Families Minister Heather Stephanson announced that there will be a delay in ending the controversial Birth Alert practice due to COVID-19. On Jan. 31, 2020, the government had announced that child welfare and public health systems in Manitoba will no longer issue birth alerts for high-risk expectant mothers as of April 1, 2020. In Manitoba, 282 infants under four days old were taken into care in 2017-2018. Roughly 90 per cent of children in care in Manitoba are Indigenous.

The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) Grand Chief Jerry Daniels stated: ”Today, I stand with our southern First Nation CFS service providers as we turn the page and begin to implement a culturally-appropriate alternative to Manitoba’s Birth Alert practice, beginning on April 1, 2020.” In September of 2019, the SCO Chiefs-in-Summit issued a Directive to the Southern First Nations Network of Care (SFNNC) to develop a culturally-appropriate and safe alternative to Manitoba’s Birth Alert practice.


February 22, 2019


Government and Institution Issues

Child Welfare Funding Objections

The government of Manitoba met with the Indigenous Leadership Council (Manitoba Métis Federation, Southern Chiefs’ Organization and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak) for first time in over two years despite a previous commitment to meet every quarter. The heads of the Indigenous Leadership Council met again with Minister of Families Heather Stefanson on Apr. 3, 2019 over concerns with the province’s block funding for child welfare that is still based on the old funding formula that rewards removing children from homes. There is no room in this block funding for prevention, no support to keep our families together. Right now, the proposed changes amount to $41.66 a month or a $1.39 per day for each child. Manitoba Métis Federation President David Chartrand

By relying on the federal Children’s Special Allowance (CSA) program to offset maintenance costs, the province is forcing our children to pay for their own care.” Under the federal government, the Children’s Special Allowance program is administered on a per-child basis and is equivalent to the combined maximum of the Canada Child Benefit (CBA) and Child Disability Benefit (CDB). These payments are meant for children in care. However, Manitoba is reducing child maintenance against the CSA funding. The Indigenous Leadership Council stands united in the fight for our children and families.”


March 17, 2022


Court Challenges

Class Action Lawsuit for government use of Birth Alerts to apprehend Indigenous babies

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – Earlier this week, a class-action lawsuit was filed in Winnipeg against the province of Manitoba regarding the controversial and discriminatory practice of Birth Alerts. The basis for the claim is that Birth Alerts are unconstitutional and are a Human Rights violation.

“The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) has been a strong advocate in taking countless actions to end the practice of Birth Alerts and Newborn Apprehensions.” stated Grand Chief Arlen Dumas. This includes:

  • The Executive Council of Chiefs passing a resolution in 2016 calling for the end of the apprehension of First Nation babies.
  • The Chiefs also expanded the mandate of the Women’s Council to include Child and Family Matters, advocating for the inclusion of child welfare in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (the Inquiry).
  • As well, the First Nations Family Advocate participated in the Inquiry as an expert witness calling for governments to examine the legality of Birth Alerts and to end the practice of Birth Alerts,”

Chief Betsy Kennedy, Chairperson of the Women’s Council stated “The Women’s Council lends a strong voice for the issues that impact First Nations women. Since the inception of the First Nations Family Advocate Office, we have witnessed the injustice and inhumane actions of the provincial government and the rooted impacts on First Nations families involved with the Child Welfare system, particularly on First Nations expectant mothers. For too long, we have had the provincial government telling us what is in the best interest of our children and families. This has led to the destruction of our families and Nations. This is evident as seen through the suffering of mental health, addictions, homelessness, and poverty.”

In 2021, a class-action lawsuit was brought against British Columbia seeking justice for the practice of Birth Alerts that have separated hundreds of parents and newborn infants, with First Nations families disproportionately affected.

“Despite the apparent end of Birth Alerts in July 2020 that the Manitoba government announced, our office still receives calls from mothers experiencing a Birth Alert and/or Newborn Apprehension. Newborn Apprehensions and the removal of children is an extremely traumatic practice that has long-lasting physical, mental and emotional effects for First Nations families. Today, the lawsuit is a step in the right direction to help address this discriminatory practice and ensure families receive justice,” stated Cora Morgan, First Nations Family Advocate.

Previously, section 9(4) of the Manitoba Child and Family Services Act identified two types of birth alerts: one issued for women over the age of 18; and one for unmarried minors (mandatory in Manitoba), particularly if they are deemed to be high risk. In both instances, the Agency that issued the Birth Alert had the legal right to apprehend the newborn infant under the premise of acting in “the best interests of the child.”


April 9, 2021


Government and Institution Issues

Cuts to Child Welfare Budgets

Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) – criticized the 2021 provincial budget cuts for foster care and child protection, with the budget dropping below $500 million for the first time in four years. The province claims that efficiencies are the reason for the decreasing budget, but for too long, children in care, 90% of whom are Indigenous, have received inadequate support and investments from the province.

“I’m completely astounded that the provincial government is making cuts to children in care at this time,” stated Deborah Smith, Chair of the Chiefs’ Standing Committee on Child Welfare and Chief of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation. “They already illegally claw back the Children’s Special Allowance payments, money that comes from the federal government meant for children in care, in order to balance the budget. Now they are further undermining these children’s wellbeing and future opportunities by cutting the budget to its lowest in years.”


October 6, 2019


Court Challenges

Federal Government asks for Judicial Review of CHRT decision

The federal government has asked for a judicial review of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) decision to award $2B in damages to approximately 53,000 Indigenous children and youth wrongly removed or denied essential services. The CHRT panel found that the government racially discriminated against First Nations children in care in a willful and reckless manner. As a result, the CHRT ordered Canada to pay the maximum amount allowable under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The government could have addressed the broken system and the funding inequalities before, but they didn’t. To appeal this CHRT ruling, which was meant to provide a measure of justice for First Nations children in care, is hurtful and unjust.” AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

The CHRT has issued eight compliance orders against Canada since its original ruling in January 2016. The CHRT has extended the date for the parties to determine how to deliver payments to Feb. 21, 2020.


September 6, 2019


Court Challenges

Federal Government asks for Judicial Review of CHRT decision

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Citation: 2019 CHRT39, File No.: T1340/7008 

We believe that the Creator has entrusted us with the sacred responsibility to raise our families…for we realize healthy families are the foundation of strong and healthy communities. The future of our communities lies with our children, who need to be nurtured within their families and communities. (see 1996 report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), Gathering strength, vol. 3, p. 10 part of the Tribunal’s evidence record). Children hold a special place in Aboriginal cultures (…) They must be protected from harm (…). They bring a purity of vision to the world that can teach their elders. They carry within them the gifts that manifest themselves as they become teachers, mothers, hunters, councillors, artisans and visionaries. They renew the strength of the family, clan and village and make the elders young again with their joyful presence. 

Failure to care for these gifts bestowed on the family, and to protect children from the betrayal of others, is perhaps the greatest shame that can befall an Aboriginal family. It is a shame that countless Aboriginal families have experienced, some of them repeatedly over generations. (see RCAP, Gathering strength vol. 3. p. 21)


February 22, 2019


Court Challenges

First Meeting with Indigenous Leadership Council in two years

The government of Manitoba met with the Indigenous Leadership Council (Manitoba Metis Federation, Southern Chiefs’ Organization and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak) for first time in over two years despite a previous commitment to meet every quarter. The heads of the Indigenous Leadership Council met again with Minister of Families Heather Stefanson on Apr. 3, 2019 over concerns with the province’s block funding for child welfare that is still based on the old funding formula that rewards removing children from homes. There is no room in this block funding for prevention, no support to keep our families together. Right now, the proposed changes amount to $41.66 a month or a $1.39 per day for each child. Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand

By relying on the federal Children’s Special Allowance (CSA) program to offset maintenance costs, the province is forcing our children to pay for their own care.” Under the federal government, the Children’s Special Allowance program is administered on a per-child basis and is equivalent to the combined maximum of the Canada Child Benefit (CBA) and Child Disability Benefit (CDB). These payments are meant for children in care. However, Manitoba is reducing child maintenance against the CSA funding. The Indigenous Leadership Council stands united in the fight for our children and families.”


December 15, 2020


Court Challenges

First Nations challenge “Bill 2”

They filed a constitutional legal challenge against Manitoba’s “Bill 2″. “Bill 2” is Manitoba’s attempt to legalize the theft of CSA money from Indigenous children, the most vulnerable group in Manitoba. It is also Manitoba’s attempt to escape legal accountability for the theft. This is wrong,” said Harold Cochrane, legal counsel, Cochrane Saxberg LLP.


November 9, 2020


Court Challenges

First Nations challenge “Bill 2”

The Southern Chiefs Organization and the Manitoba Métis Federation along with a group of 19 Indigenous child and family Agencies and Authorities announced their intent to file a challenge to BIll 2 “the Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act” that was passed on November 6, 2020.


April 14, 2020


Court Challenges

First Nations challenge “Bill 2”

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – are seriously concerned about Manitoba fast tracking Bill 2, The Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act. If passed, the Bill will have serious implications on First Nations children in care. On March 19, 2020 the Manitoba government introduced Bill 2. The Bill is currently seeking to legalize Manitoba’s actions of recovering the Child Special Allowance since January 1, 2005, when they started taking the child tax credit away. In 2018, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the off -reserve children who had their CSA’s clawed back. A trial date is set for this September. But if Bill 2 passes by September the Manitoba government would not be held responsible for their actions and the lawsuit would be invalid.

“From 2005 to 2019, approximately $338 million dollars of the Child Special Allowance (CSA) funds meant for First Nations children in care were stolen by the provincial government. This is an illegal action. We have a government trying to justify their actions, wiping their hands clean from the claw backs of the CSA by protecting themselves from any legal recourse through Bill 34,” stated Chief Karen Batson of Pine Creek First Nation. ”This is a human rights violation and is another example of how the provincial government has neglected children in care in the past, present, and now future,” concluded Chief Batson.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO), the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) and the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) are particularly concerned by section 8, “which sets out to legally end the ability of current and former children in care to sue the Manitoba government for clawing back their monthly Children’s Special Allowance (CSA).


October 7, 2022


Court Challenges

First Nations Challenge Bill 2

Oct. 7, 2020 – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Official Opposition Manitoba NDP and the Manitoba Liberal Party, denounce and reject Bill 2 and stand in opposition against the Provincial government’s approach to denying First Nations families and children access to justice. Section 84 of the Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act will retroactively legalize Manitoba’s actions since January 1, 2005, as well as take away the right to any reparations for the children and families affected by the practice of clawing back the Children’s Special Allowance.

A class action lawsuit in the amount of $338 million dollars was filed against the Provincial government on behalf of First Nation children in care who are victims of the government’s actions of capturing the Children’s Special Allowance. If Bill 2 passes, the class action lawsuit will be void and First Nation families and children will not receive compensation for the injustice they went through.


September 8, 2021


Court Challenges

First Nations Challenge Bill 2

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs filed its written submissions in its challenge of the provincial Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act. The submissions of the AMC argue that through the BITSA, Manitoba:

  • infringes the core jurisdiction of the superior courts and breaches section 96 of the Constitution Act, 1867 by having the province of Manitoba absolving itself from any liability and denying First Nations children in care the right to access the courts;
  • denies First Nations children substantive equality and equal benefit of the law on the grounds of age, race, aboriginality-residence and family status, in which the BITSA is contrary to section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
  • denies First Nations the rights, benefits and opportunities promised to First Nations children in care by Canada pursuant to s. 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 and is therefore beyond the province’s constitutional authority; and
  • violates the honour of the Crown and breaches its fiduciary duty owed to First Nations children in care

November 6, 2020


Court Challenges

First Nations Challenge Bill 2

Bill 2, the “Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act“, is passed.


March 2, 2021


Child and Youth Advocate Reports

Infant Mortality and Youth Suicide

The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (MACY) and the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba – submitted a report that discusses “the international and national human rights framework as it relates to structural inequalities and Indigenous children’s right to continuous improvement of health with a particular focus on infant mortality and youth suicide in Manitoba, Canada. Specific issues raised for discussion include …the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person, access to justice (preamble, and articles, 6, 7, 8, 22 and 43) and non-discrimination, health, housing (as part of the right to an adequate standard of living and non-discrimination), culture, and education (articles 14, 17, 21)”. The focus on Manitoba includes:

  • one in two First Nations children, one in four Métis, one in four Inuit, and one in six non-Indigenous children in Manitoba live in poverty, all higher than in Canada overall.
  • Indigenous infants account for between 20-30% of live births in Manitoba between 2009 and 2018, but represent at least 57% of sleep-related infant deaths
  • Only 24 of 63 First Nations communities in Manitoba have maternal-child health programs, some of which are ‘pilot’ programs that lack permanent or sustainable funding
  • 20 of 22 suicides of female youth between 2012 and 2019 and who were involved with the child welfare system were Indigenous
  • while approximately 26% of the child population in Manitoba are Indigenous, they account for approximately 90% of children in the care of child and family service agencies
  • 78% of children, youth, and young adults served by the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth through ongoing advocacy supports during the 2019/20 fiscal year were Indigenous.
  • A study of the overlap between Manitoba’s child welfare and justice systems found that close to one-third of children in care were later charged with a crime as a youth (age 12-17). This study confirmed that the child welfare system in Manitoba serves as a ‘pipeline’ to the youth criminal justice system
  • Indigenous youth in Manitoba are 16 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous youth
  • In 2016, only 48% of Indigenous students graduated high school “on-time”, compared to 86% of their non-Indigenous counterparts

Recommendations

ONE: Take steps to include the voices, experiences, perspectives, and testimony of Indigenous children and youth to the largest extent possible in any decision or work that may affect them, as enshrined by Article 12 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

TWO: Acknowledge the ongoing work towards reconciliation and the fulfillment of Indigenous children’s rights in Canada by evaluating and commenting on the Government of Canada’s compliance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Actions designed to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation in Canada and recommendations made in Honouring the Truth, Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

THREE: Recognize the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples by highlighting Indigenous-led initiatives to fulfill the rights of Indigenous children including maternal- child health programs and youth suicide prevention programs that provide children with the culturally appropriate services they are entitled to receive.

FOUR: Through the development of this study, create opportunities for Indigenous practitioners and advocates around the world to come together to generate connections, and share information and best practices.

FIVE: In order to understand the differential experiences of Indigenous children and youth, the challenges they face, as well as existing gaps in the social determinants of health, it is imperative that governments systematically collect data on Indigenous ancestry, with attention to the principles of ownership, control, access, possession (OCAP®) and principles of Ethical Métis Research. Currently, this gap in information prevents a full understanding of the structural inequalities facing Indigenous children and youth.

SIX: Ensure ethical considerations are upheld and respected in all aspects of this study and any research or data collection involving Indigenous Peoples, and Indigenous children in particular, conducted by governments and other parties. Ethical considerations concerning research for and by Indigenous Peoples should involve free prior informed consent on a collective and individual basis; principles are followed to ensure Indigenous ownership, control, access, and possession of their own data and information; and all research should be respectful and benefit Indigenous Peoples.

SEVEN: Examine the role of fiscal policies that continuously underfund services for Indigenous infants, children, and their families (including schools, mental health services, and prenatal and postnatal supports) as a barrier for the realization of Indigenous children’s right to health.

EIGHT: Recognize the centrality of addressing Indigenous child poverty at the national level as a necessary condition of fulfilling Indigenous children’s right to non- discrimination and health.

NINE: Prioritize analysis of the role of the child welfare system and ongoing apprehension of Indigenous children from their families as this is in direct violation of the right of Indigenous children to a family life, to health, to culture, and to a future.

https://manitobaadvocate.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021-03-1-UNDRIP_Joint_Submission.pdf


September 16, 2020


Jordan's Principle

Manitoba Judicial Review

Manitoba Government – is seeking a judicial review of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission decision to award damages to a First Nations family. “All Manitobans deserve to know what services they can access when they need them, and we believe this ruling confuses rather than clarifies which level of government is responsible for providing health care and related services to First Nations people living on reserve,” said Eileen Clarke, Indigenous and Northern Relations Minister. “A judicial review of this decision will bring much-needed attention to the legal obligations of federal and provincial governments, and bring clarity to this important issue.”


August 19, 2020


Jordan's Principle

Manitoba Judicial Review

CBC – A Manitoba Human Rights Commission decision found a First Nations family was discriminated against “on the basis of their ancestry as Anishinaabe people and the disability of Dewey a teen who wasn’t able to access consistent health care on reserve because of jurisdictional disputes and systemic discrimination…The province maintaining the federal government is responsible for providing health care and related services in First Nations communities”. The MHRC adjudicator noted that “The same problems did not afflict neighbouring non-First Nations communities, and those residents enjoyed health care and related services without denial, delay, or interruption.”


April 30, 2021


Government and Institution Issues

Report on Child Abuse and Neglect

“Mashkiwenmi-daa Noojimowin: Let’s Have Strong Minds for the Healing” is the first report of the First Nations Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect-2018 (FNOIS-2018). Objectives and Scope

The primary objective of the OIS- 2018 is to provide reliable estimates of the scope and characteristics of child abuse and neglect investigated by child welfare services in Ontario in 2018. Specifically, the FNOIS-2018 is designed to:

  1. examine the rate of incidence and characteristics of investigations involving First Nations children and families compared to non-Indigenous children and families;
  2. determine rates of investigated and substantiated physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional maltreatment, and exposure to intimate partner violence as well as multiple forms of maltreatment;
  3. investigate the severity of maltreatment as measured by forms of maltreatment, duration, and physical and emotional harm;
  4. examine selected determinants of health that may be associated with maltreatment; and
  5. monitor short-term investigation outcomes, including substantiation rates, out-of-home placement, and use of child welfare court.

Comparison between First Nations and non-Indigenous:

  • child welfare investigations approximately three times more likely for a First Nations child
  • Greater incidence of physical abuse (.5x), sexual abuse (3x), neglect (4.5x), emotional maltreatment (2x),
  • exposure to intimate partner violence (3x) , risk of future maltreatment investigation (3.5x)
  • Transfers to ongoing services: 6 x greater
  • Out-of-home placement is 12.4 x greater
  • Household risk factors: Social Assistance, Employment or other benefit (2 x);

The differences in rates between First Nations and non-Indigenous children and investigations must be understood in the context of understanding the impact of colonialism and the resulting trauma to children, families and communities.
https://cwrp.ca/sites/default/files/publications/Mashkiwenmi-Daa%20Noojimowin_Let’s%20Have%20Strong%20Minds%20For%20The%20Healing_First%20Nations%20Ontario%20Incidence%20Study%20Of%20Reported%20Child%20Abuse%20And%20Neglect%202018.pdf


March 11, 2021


Child and Youth Advocate Reports

Still Waiting: Investigating Child Maltreatment after the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry”

Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth – released a new special report, “Still Waiting: Investigating Child Maltreatment after the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry” that examines the lives of 19 children who died after being severely maltreated while under the age of five. Roughly seven years after the final report from the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry “Still Waiting” from the Acting Manitoba Advocate tracks the province’s progress on Hughes’ 62 recommendations and in her report makes five more recommendations for child safety and system change.

“What Manitobans will see in our independent report is not nearly enough change has occurred within public systems and child-serving organizations to protect kids. This should be among our highest priorities as adults,” said Ainsley Krone, the Acting Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth. “Children are still dying of maltreatment similar to what Phoenix Sinclair experienced and what is clear is that systemic inequities and social determinants of health are contributing factors in these deaths,” she continued.” More resources and improved supports for families and communities in Manitoba are needed to help them with preventing child maltreatment. Too often, help still arrives after a child’s death, when what families need is help much earlier in establishing safety so children are protected.”

In Hughes’ inquiry report from 2014, he laid out 62 recommendations to better protect Manitoba children after the death of five-year-old Phoenix in June 2005. Despite his recommendations for sweeping changes and repeated acknowledgements by the provincial government in years since that improvements are underway, the Advocate’s latest investigation found that progress has been slow. According to the Advocate’s analysis, 55 per cent of Hughes’ recommendations have been completed so far, seven years after the release of his report. At the current rate of progress, it will be 2028 before all of the recommendations are completed.

Some major changes have occurred in Manitoba’s child welfare system in the past 15 years, including the continued devolution of the system, new child welfare agencies being established, and, more recently, federal legislation aimed at ensuring children can be looked after by their home communities, with sovereign systems for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples. While these large-scale changes alter jurisdictions, legal mandates, stakeholder responsibilities, and other structural factors, the Advocate’s office continues to question whether outcomes and safety for children are improving.

Seven years after the conclusion of the public inquiry, the provincial government has yet to proactively release a complete status report on the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry’s recommendations.

Krone’s five recommendations made to the provincial government and child welfare authorities are:

RECOMMENDATION ONE (System Level): The Government of Manitoba must implement the outstanding recommendations from the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry.

RECOMMENDATION TWO (Community Level): Consistent with Call to Action 5 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Government of Manitoba must work with First Nations and Metis governments and community stakeholders to ensure access to evidence-informed and culturally-safe parenting programs and resources for caregivers of children under the age of five across Manitoba, with attention to rural and remote communities.

RECOMMENDATION THREE (Organization Level): Each child and family services authority must develop and provide the necessary resources to implement a culturally-appropriate reunification policy within their agencies.

RECOMMENDATION FOUR (Direct Service Level): Each child and family services authority must ensure their agencies complete case reviews for every child in care under age five, for whom reunification is planned.

RECOMMENDATION FIVE (Direct Service Level): The Department of Families, through the Joint Training Team, must develop and administer mandatory training for front line workers and supervisors on the risk and protective factors of child maltreatment and best practices for reunification.
https://manitobaadvocate.ca/wp-content/uploads/Maltreatment_Report.pdf


October 28, 2021


Child and Youth Advocate Reports

The Overlap Between the Child Welfare and Youth Criminal Justice Systems:

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – AMC remains concerned regarding the continued lack of supports in place to ensure that youth in care successfully transition after aging out of the Child Welfare system in Manitoba.
First Nations children and youth make up approximately 80% of the number of children in care in this province. With the lack of existing supports, the reality is that many First Nations children aging out of care will become homeless and/or become involved with the justice system. This is documented in several studies, most recently, the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) report, The Overlap Between the Child Welfare and Youth Criminal Justice Systems: Documenting “Cross-Over Kids” in Manitoba, which found significant evidence that involvement in the CFS system is a strong risk factor for contact with the youth criminal justice system.”
The report found that more than one-third of youth in care were charged with at least one crime and by age 21, almost one-half had been charged with a criminal offence. The study also found that First Nations children and youth were greatly over-represented in both the CFS and criminal justice systems. Additionally, according to the 2018 Winnipeg Street census, at least 50 per cent of homeless people surveyed were involved in the CFS system with two-thirds of those having become homeless within the first year of aging out of care.
Young women who have aged out of care are also identified as being more vulnerable to being assaulted, murdered, or going missing. In 2018, First Nations Family Advocate Cora Morgan testified to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and said, “I think it’s really critical for us to be able to have that voice recognized – that there is a direct link between MMIWG and the child welfare system.”
http://mchp-appserv.cpe.umanitoba.ca/reference/MCHP_JustCare_Report_web.pdf


March 21, 2019


Bill C-92

Yellowhead Institue Critique of Bill C-92

“Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Métis and Inuit children, youth and families” was graded as follows by the Yellowhead Institute of Ryerson University based on analysis by five Indigenous legal scholars. (See also First Nations Child and Family Caring Society Information Brief in C2A # 4)

GRADES:
National Standards: …………………… C
Funding: ……………………………………..F
Accountability: ……………………………D
Jurisdiction: ……………………………….D
Data Collection and Reporting: …..D

Yellowhead Institute Recommendations

National Standards

  • Ensure that standards exist in law so that Indigenous children do not automatically become government wards without significant efforts are made to maintain familial and community care.
  • Require ongoing legal relationships, or at the least, access to children’s family of origin.
    Include strong, mandatory language around BIOC to address judicial bias and overtake any binding precedents in this area.
  • Include “active efforts” or “maximum contact” clauses in relation to Indigenous child welfare with First Nations have not taken over full jurisdiction.
  • A requirement of written documentation of active efforts to find placements according to the priority set out or affidavit evidence from the Indigenous group that there is no available placement.
  • And/or a presumption that an access order with some family or community member and a long-term funding commitment for regular travel back to the community is included as a term of any permanency order.

Funding

  • Attach clear federal funding commitments for First Nations pursuing child welfare jurisdiction.
  • Ensure funding reflects the principle of substantive equality and which also meets the needs and circumstances of children on reserve
  • Ensure off-reserve, Métis, non-status and Inuit children and families are included in budgets, distinct from non-Indigenous children and families.
  • Compel coordination between federal and provincial governments regarding incentives to cooperate and adequately fund Indigenous governing bodies to implement Jordan’s Principle.

Accountability

  • Establish a dispute resolution mechanism to deal with situations where Indigenous groups experience challenges in entering collaboration agreements with Canada and the provinces, in the cases they are required.
  • Create an independent body to hear disputes and make binding decisions on all parties.

Jurisdiction

  • Recognize jurisdiction as a right to self- determination under UNDRIP rather than a s. 35 right.
    Set a clear path out of the existing jurisdictional squabbling between the provincial and federal governments.
  • Revise paramountcy rules so they are clear enough for, and accessible to community members, so that can understand in time sensitive or emergency circumstances.
  • Contain clear conflict of laws principles and processes that give real weight to Indigenous law-making authority and jurisdiction.
  • Address the long-standing issue of services to First Nations children who are residing off-reserve, as well as non-status, Métis and Inuit children.
  • Provide clarity and direction on how the “Best Interests Of the Child” (BIOC) standard will be defined regarding the applicability of laws. At minimum this should clarify a standard for best interests of the Indigenous child— determined by Indigenous legal and community standards—and dictate the application of federal and provincial laws to Indigenous children.
  • Clearly and openly resolve the lack of funding for Indigenous law-making, administration and enforcement as well as funding for the preventative of child and family health.

Data Collecting and Reporting

  • Mandate collection and publication of data along the lines of TRC Call to Action #2
  • Address privacy issues by anonymized and displaying data in aggregate.