Saturday, September 20, 2014
Text Size

Premiers face pressure to help aboriginal kids

Ted Hughes calls for action, not further study, on underlying problems that lead to a high rate of first nations children being taken from their parents

By Rob Shaw, Vancouver Sun

VICTORIA — Canada’s premiers will attempt this week to tackle the unacceptably high rate of aboriginal kids in government care.


The issue is on the agenda largely due to Ted Hughes, a former B.C. judge and the architect of B.C.’s child welfare system. He persuaded Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger to champion the issue at the Council of the Federation meeting that starts Wednesday in Charlottetown.

The over-representation of First Nations children in care will also be discussed with First Nations leaders during separate meetings, said Selinger.

“My view is we should come out with a joint working group that will prepare an action plan that we can recommend and implement across the country,” Selinger said in an interview with The Vancouver Sun.

Selinger agreed with Hughes, who has argued provincial and federal governments need to act, and not launch more studies or inquiries.

“We’ve got to focus on action,” said Selinger. “There’s things that have been done, money invested in prevention, but there’s just too many children in care. We have to find more ways, and more resolve and determination, and more partnerships, to ensure our children can be in their communities, and their families can be supported to care for them.”

B.C. Premier Christy Clark also supports the discussion, after a meeting with Hughes, who has headed several high-profile public inquiries into child deaths.

“She agreed she’d give it her full support,” Hughes said. “I’m optimistic to think maybe finally after all these years something is going to happen.”

More than 80 per cent of children in care in Manitoba are aboriginal. The trend extends across Canada. In B.C., only 5.4 per cent of the population is aboriginal but aboriginal children account for 53 per cent of kids in government care.

The discussion by premiers occurs against a backdrop of recent high-profile child murders in Manitoba. Winnipeg police are investigating the killing of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old aboriginal girl who fled a foster home early this month and whose body was found wrapped in a bag and dumped in the Red River.

The Manitoba government also pledged action earlier this year after Hughes concluded a public inquiry into the murder of a five-year-old First Nations girl, Phoenix Sinclair. She killed by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend in 2006 after a period of prolonged abuse. Hughes made 62 recommendations to help fix Manitoba’s child welfare system.

Selinger admitted the two murders have spurred action and “people are very concerned” about the issue.

In B.C., the 2002 death of 19-month-old Sherry Charlie at the hands of a violent uncle in Port Alberni sparked a full review of the child welfare system by Hughes and the creation of an independent watchdog, the representative for children and youth.

Charlie had been placed in her uncle’s care by the government, under a rushed new policy of placing kids taken into care with relatives or friends.

Hughes has called the high number of aboriginal kids in government care “unconscionable” and a “national embarrassment” that requires action by provincial, federal and First Nations leaders.

“I’m sort of a lone voice in having said that I don’t think another inquiry is the solution, but rather it’s time for an action plan to deal with those underlying factors of poverty, substance abuse, inadequate housing and social exclusion, which is a big factor which results from those issues,” said Hughes. “All of which go back to the policies of colonization.”

Solution will require federal involvement given its responsibility for First Nations reserves and treaties, but Ottawa’s level of interest remains unclear.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters Thursday that he won’t call a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women because the deaths are usually the result of criminal activity and not a “sociological phenomenon.”

Many of the chiefs from B.C.’s more than 200 First Nation communities will meet with Premier Clark and her cabinet next month in Vancouver. Though the agenda is expected to be dominated by discussion of the recent Supreme Court of Canada land title ruling in favour of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation, Hughes said it’s also a good opportunity for chiefs and government to discuss action on the children-in-care issue.

Whatever Trevor

Dis is Trevor.

Education & Training

Blast from the past: FP archive

When is Consultation, Consultation?

Ovide Mercredi

National Chief – AFN

During a Treaty Roundtable meeting of the Alberta Chiefs, I took note of a federal government document outlining their strategy to define and ultimately impose their own form of self-government. Read more...

Letting go of residential schools

by Gilbert Oskaboose, Nov 1993 First Perspective

There is a lot of "unfinished business" in Indian Country. Garbage that we as a people have never really dealt with. Chief among them is the whole issue of those infamous residential schools and their impact on people. Read more...


obidiah picture

ANALYSIS - Bill Gallagher

gallagher picture

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit


First Nations Cultural Interpreter PM – 02 Riding Mountain National Park Seasonal Indeterminate

(May to October) From $54,543 to $58,764

Closing Sept. 19, 2014

Read More

Regional Media Officer– Temp (Until Nov 2015) –F/T Position

Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition / NDP Research Office

Location:131 Queen Street, Suite 10-02, Ottawa, ON


Communicate regularly with regional media outlets (community newspapers, radio stations, student media, ethnic media, etc.) to propose ideas for interviews and opinion content Read more...

Canadian Chamber of Commerce Aboriginal Workforce Report

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a report that highlights initiatives to improve the workforce participation of Aboriginal peoples. 

Opportunity Found: Improving the Participation of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada’s Workforce (December 2013)  

click image to download report

Tue Sep 23 @ 3:00PM - 04:15PM
FNHMA National Conference 2014
Sun Oct 05 @ 9:00AM - 05:00PM
INIHKD & Manitoba NEAHR Conference 2014


September 2014
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 1 2 3 4

Current Video

RIP Percy Tuesday


Thanks to Althea Guiboche for allowing The First Perspective to share her video taken at the Manitowapow book launch at McNally Robinson. 

Percey sings Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and people join in to harmonize. 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): The Washington Redskins