Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development, has issued the following statement in response to the June 10, 2021, report from the representative for children and youth:
“I would like to thank the representative for children and youth for this report, as well as the family, friends and social workers who shared their memories of this incredible young person. I agree with the representative that, beyond what we’re already doing to improve the child-protection system in B.C., we can and must do more to ensure children and youth who come into care stay connected to their families and their culture, and feel a strong sense of belonging in all aspects of their lives. This is especially important for Indigenous children and youth.
“The child welfare system is overly involved in the lives of Indigenous children and families. This dates back to residential schools, is part of the damaging colonial legacy that continues to this day – and it needs to stop.
“We share in the grief expressed throughout B.C., Canada and the world for the trauma and harms done to so many children, families and communities at the Kamloops residential school and all residential schools. The truth that many Indigenous children who were forced to attend residential schools never made it home has long been publicly known. However, this recent discovery is a painful reminder and retraumatizing for many. The story of the young person in this report is especially heart-breaking, given the context of the discovery at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“I have heard the calls from Indigenous communities and leaders and from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to stop bringing Indigenous children into care, and I have asked my staff to work with our Indigenous partners to bring us closer to that vision because one child in care is too many. We also share the representative’s focus on extending our organizational learning and improving practice.
“Since coming into government, we have given priority to transforming the system and addressing the over-representation of Indigenous children and youth in care. We removed the pressure on social workers to prioritize adoption over all other forms of permanency. We also have taken steps – through legislative changes and budget measures – to improve how we work with and share information with First Nations and Indigenous communities to keep children and youth with extended family and connected to their community and culture. We also know that there is much more to be done to support Indigenous children, youth and families throughout the province.
“Nations and communities have told us they want to care for their children, and we are working with them toward exercising their jurisdiction.
“We've committed to adopting and implementing the federal legislation, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. Under the act, the situation for every Indigenous child in care must be reassessed on an ongoing basis. This will help to determine if other decisions on placements, as defined in the act, would be more appropriate.
“We remain steadfast in our goal of keeping Indigenous children and youth out of care, safely with their families, and connected to their culture and communities, because we know this makes a difference to the lives and future of Indigenous children and youth and their communities. I am committed to continuing to work closely with Indigenous communities and leaders on this goal.”