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First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples: new era, new relationships

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OHRC takes up TRC calls to action on child welfare

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, released in December 2015, catalogues in painstaking detail the cultural genocide perpetrated over a century against Canada’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples (Indigenous peoples). The residential school legacy continues to have a devastating intergenerational impact on Indigenous peoples – including the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care and the large numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

One of the TRC’s first calls to action is for all governments in Canada to commit to reducing the number of Indigenous children and youth in the child welfare system. It calls on governments to prepare and publish annual reports on the number of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and youth in care, compared with non-Indigenous children, the reasons for apprehension, the total spending on preventive and care services by child-welfare agencies, and the effectiveness of various interventions.

We are also made aware by the African Canadian Legal Clinic and others about the over-representation of Black children and youth in the child welfare system.

The OHRC responded by using our mandate to examine the overrepresentation of Indigenous and racialized children and youth in Ontario’s child welfare system.

As a first step, the OHRC has written to Ontario’s 47 Children’s Aid Societies (CASs) to request disaggregated data on the children, youth and families each agency serves, starting from the point of first contact with the child welfare system, through to admission, progress through it and transition out, as well as other information to help us understand the experience of vulnerable children in care. We have also met with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS), the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, to discuss steps that can be taken to improve outcomes for Indigenous and racialized children, youth and their families.

MCYS is working with CASs to implement a single, integrated data management system that will be used across the province by 2019-20. The OHRC is engaging with MCYS to make sure that this system is used as an opportunity to enable CASs to report consistent disaggregated data across Code grounds to identify and develop solutions to address systemic discrimination.

The OHRC will decide next steps once we receive and have reviewed data provided by CASs based on advice received from Indigenous and racialized community leaders, organizations as well as child welfare experts.

National Aboriginal Day statement

The OHRC acknowledged Canada’s long history of ignoring the legitimate rights Indigenous peoples and reiterated our commitment to working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to address systemic discrimination.

“We are living in a time where horrible things have happened but we have to acknowledge that the [TRC] has done so much work trying to hear the stories and address the wrongs. Ninety-four calls to action under two categories [legacy and reconciliation]… In terms of legacy, we’re talking about child welfare, education, justice… this is where we’re seeing the work to be done. The Indigenous missing and murdered women’s inquiry: It’s much bigger than the 1200 women [initially] identified. It’s on a much grander scale. [Forced] sex trade work… It’s as close as we can get to slavery. Those are the ugly truths that are starting to come out. Indigenous communities already knew this was happening. But [for the rest of Canada] it has taken this long.” – Caitlyn Kasper, Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto

From the UARR Newsletter March 2016 – “Racial Profiling in Child Welfare:”

Renu Mandhane, the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, recently indicated she would be requesting that all child welfare agencies in Ontario collect and disclose race-based statistics, including the number of Black children in their care. The Chief Commissioner must be commended for her position on this matter. These statistics are important to help identify and address systemic discrimination in the child welfare system, including anti-Black racism. 

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