VICTORIA, B.C. – Today, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) announced it will stop using birth alerts, a practice described by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ final report as “racist and discriminatory and a gross violation of the rights of the child, the mother, and the community.”
“Removing birth alerts from accepted practice within MCFD is an important step to ensuring families stay together for the well-being of all family members involved,” said Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley and B.C. Green spokesperson for Children and Family Development. “But this change is long overdue.
“Birth alerts have long been recognized as damaging and violent. They target women and infants at the most vulnerable and critical moment of their lives. The evidence is overwhelming: when we separate moms and babies, we are creating long-term problems for both of them. The best way to support infants is to support families by ensuring parents-to-be receive prenatal services and preventive care.
“This change, evidently, did not require legislative amendment. It simply required the elimination of a form. So why did the ministry not prioritize this procedural change? Why was it not made two years ago? How many expectant mothers spent what should have been a time of joy, instead in terror and in hiding? How many newborns have been taken from their mothers during these past months, justified by a policy the ministry is now recognizing as racialized, traumatizing, and ineffective?”
Since the NDP government has taken office, reports have been made of attempted seizures of infants as young as 90 minutes old from two first-time parents at a Kamloops hospital, and there have been repeated newborn apprehension cases in MLA Furstenau’s Cowichan Valley riding. When a 3-day old infant was taken from their Huu-ay-aht mother without explanation in 2018, a provincial court judge overturned the Ministry of Child and Family Development’s sanctioned apprehension and ordered the mother reunited with her baby.
“These are examples of deeply damaging actions on the part of government. We need to recognize that the humanitarian crisis of Indigenous child apprehensions will not be stopped by tinkering around the edges of a very broken, non-evidence based system. I will continue to work tirelessly to prioritize this issue, amplify the voices of those affected, and support those in my community who are working towards solutions.
“Increasingly, Indigenous and First Nations communities are asserting their inherent rights and jurisdiction over their children. This government needs to recognize this, and end its colonial practices.”
In British Columbia:
- Of the nearly 6,500 children in government care, two thirds or 68 per cent are Indigenous. according to Census Canada 2016.
- Cowichan Region is home to B.C.’s largest Indigenous population.
- Summer 2018, the Ministry of Child and Family Development’s Duncan office reported about 78 per cent of the 275 kids in care were Indigenous.
- Only 7.7 percent of the child population are Indigenous, but they account for 52.2 per cent of children in foster care, according to Census Canada 2016.
- This means 14,970 of the 28,665 foster children in private homes under the age of 15 are Indigenous.
- Both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Inquiry Report cited serious concerns with birth alerts. MMIWG labeled it an act of violence and called for an end to its practice.
- “We call upon provincial and territorial governments and child welfare services for an immediate end to the practice of targeting and apprehending infants (hospital alerts or birth alerts) from Indigenous mothers right after they give birth.” (MMIWG Calls for Justice, 12.8)
Macon L.C. McGinley | Press Secretary
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