VICTORIA, B.C. - In response to the BC Coroners Service inquiry into the death of Cree teenager Traevon Desjarlais, Sonia Furstenau, leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Cowichan Valley has released the following statement:
“The suicide of Traveon Desjarlais is a profound tragedy, and the factors surrounding his death lay directly in the hands of this BC NDP government.
“The inquest’s first recommendation is for this government to stop placing children into group homes. These for-profit homes are run by unqualified people who cut corners, making them dangerous and traumatizing situations for the children they care for. Investigations found that the workers at Rees Family Services, contracted to care for Traevon, were verbally abusive, neglectful, and would deprive the residents of food or shelter. They paid no attention to his Indigenous heritage. Rees Family Services are only one example in a negligent system of care supported by this government.
“The government is responsible for the children they take into care. It is reprehensible to rip children away from their families under the guise of dangerous living situations, and then turn around and place them into worse conditions. Multiple audits of the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the agencies they fund have found few safeguards, no monitoring, nor communication between organizations or the children they care for.
“The recommendations of this inquest make it clear that Indigenous communities know what is best for their children, and they must be resourced to be able to keep those children in their communities. This includes sharing information with all of their caregivers, supporting and hiring Indigenous people to care for their communities, and diverting resources from for-profit group homes.
“To move away from contracting group homes, MCFD responded that they will run a pilot model with wraparound support for youth. However, Minister Mitzi Dean has not committed to a timeline.
“Decade after decade, the provincial government continues to fail Indigenous children. While recent changes to child welfare legislation enable greater Indigenous governance over their own children, the children already within the system urgently require care.
“I call on Minister Dean, the decision-makers at MCFD, and Premier Eby to immediately accept the Coroner’s recommendations in full, and to hand control back to Indigenous communities for their children already in care.”
B.C. Green Caucus
+1 250-882-6187 | [email protected]