The BC Green Party is calling for reforms and transparency to remove children from their parents’ care this week after a baby was arrested in Victoria.
Party Leader Sonia Furstenau and Saanich North and Islands MLA Adam Olsen met with the media today (April 19) to discuss the commitment of Campbell River residents Sonja and Philip Hathaway to worried about their newborn Amella, was born at Victoria General Hospital.
At the news conference, Furstenau cited a series of announcements from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) that explained how the ministry planned to address child welfare issues.
“This administration has two pages of announcements, policy and legislative changes that say it’s not going to be business as usual,” Furstenau said, referring to the long-standing issue of Indigenous children being overrepresented in the child welfare system. “And then, as far as I know, business as usual.”
The minister in charge, Mitzi Dean, told Black Press Media she was unable to comment on the case, or even acknowledge whether the ministry was involved with the Hathaway family, but stressed the importance of keeping families together.
“While I cannot comment on the specific circumstances of specific families, we do know that … Indigenous children have been overrepresented in the child welfare system for far too long,” she said. “We know there’s been an established link between existing child welfare, the scoop of the 60s and so-called boarding schools, it’s harmful and it creates intergenerational trauma.”
Furstenau also expressed dismay at the lack of transparency on behalf of the MCFD, which she said denigrates the experience of parents.
“The pattern is so clear, so well-established and so predictable that MCFD will take its time destroying her [the mother], instead of reflecting on whether they followed all the principles and all the announcements and policies and legislation,” she said. “Have they done so? The question to ask is: Are all steps being taken to keep this mother with her baby? “
Furstenau said Hathaways’ case is just one of “generations of child welfare policies that have been systemically racist against Indigenous people.”
Sonja, a member of Dene First Nation, told Black Press Media that she fears her children will not be exposed to their native language and culture while away from her.
“You have policies, laws and commitments,” Furstenau said. “That’s their responsibility.”
Olson commented on the facts of the case presented to him by the couple, who said that for several months they worked with the MCFD on a birth plan for the timing of Amella’s birth, but those agreements did not materialize.
“The real danger of calling the MCFD is the most dangerous thing you can do in this province,” Olson said. “That’s the message it sends. It says: don’t ask this government for support because the truth is, they’ll trick you into believing they’re working with you and then you’ll go out for a minute and come back, not knowing where your kids are exist.
Both Olsen and Furstenau said that beyond the couple’s ability to care for their children, the measures taken by the MCFD reflect a systemic effort to weaken Indigenous communities by taking children away from their parents.
“The destruction of Indigenous women as parents has a long and systematic history, it’s deliberate, and we should all question that because the reality is, if they can break the mother-baby bond, you can break it, said Olsen.
Furstenau also cites Representation of Children and Youth (RCY) Act Report, released on April 18, found a lack of progress on RCY’s proposals to improve the efficiency of ministries such as the MCFD. The report found that no progress had been made on one-third of the recommendations, including greater collaboration and engagement with Aboriginal communities.
Furstenau said that during her upcoming meeting with MCFD staff on April 20, she will ask about what is being done to keep families together.
“This is what this minister and this deputy minister [of MCFD] This department is not effectively addressed, you can make all these policies, you can make announcements every month, you can say all these good things, but if your policies and the implementation of your actions cause us to ‘re-see: You have failed ,” Furstenau said.
– File by Wolfgang Depner
Read more: Couple camps out at BC legislature to protest arrest of newborn at Victoria hospital
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