British Columbia

B.C. government's response to report on Paige's death falls short, say aboriginal advocates

Aboriginal youth advocates say the B.C. government still has a long way to go if it wants to prevent more deaths like that of 19-year old Paige.

Action plan needs to include greater coordination amongst agencies helping vulnerable youth, says Scott Clark

Paige, 19, died of a drug overdose after a troubled life on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. (B.C. Children's and Youth Representative)

Aboriginal youth advocates say the B.C. government still has a long way to go if it wants to prevent deaths like that of 19-year old Paige, an aboriginal girl in the ministry's care who died after a childhood spent on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

"The ministry themselves are working on a nine-to-five business model ... and there's a great deal of fear between these people and the ministry and its contractors," said Scott Clark, executive director of the Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society. "There's a complete lack of accountability."

Paige's story has galvanized advocates for an improved system for children in care, and highlighted many system problems.

Despite the aboriginal girl's contact with health care workers, police and social workers, many of the incidents went unreported to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Lack of coordination

Clark said he has only read the report briefly since the provincial government released it on election day, but he already sees some major flaws.

"What's really missing from the action plan is the ongoing lack of communication amongst community organizations that work with vulnerable youth."

Clark says resources are lacking, but efforts to help aboriginal youth need to address the economic, environmental, and social factors that bring about persisting poverty in some aboriginal communities.

"We can't look at children or youth in isolation of their family, nor can we look at it in isolation of the community that they actually live in."

Scott Clark, executive director of the Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society, says the government's response to Paige's death falls short of what aboriginal youth need. (Charlie Cho/CBC)

The government needs to look at the bigger picture and recognize that aboriginal issues don't exist in isolation, according to Clark. Greater cooperation between various youth support groups would be a good start, he says.

"The lines of communications between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal side is very dysfunctional."

Long overdue

"There are so many systems issues, just at the local level, that go all the way up to the provincial level so this work should have been done a long time ago," said Clark, who has advocated for aboriginal youth for 25 years.

"We need a cross-ministerial, intergovernmental strategy that provides the appropriate support, like housing, daycare, child care, recreational programs," said Clark.

He points to the B.C.'s high poverty rates as proof.

"As a result of this we have greater risk for children and families," he said.

"So things are worse today than they were 10 years ago."


To hear the full interview click on the audio labelled: ALIVE reacts to gov't response to Paige's Story.


now