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 Metis, 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 form the “Joint Submission to the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People”: Study on the rights of the Indigenous child under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”
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.