Little difference between U.S. child detention and CFS, says Indigenous advocate

Manitoba's First Nations family advocate says people should be outraged over the 9,000 Indigenous children separated from parents through child and family services in Manitoba.

Crown-Indigenous relations minister says 'child welfare industry … has to be dismantled'

Cora Morgan, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs' First Nations family advocate, says at least 9,000 Indigenous children in the province are separated from their parents right now. (Warren Kay/ CBC)

Manitoba's First Nations family advocate says there are around 9,000 Indigenous children in Manitoba who have no reason to celebrate on National Indigenous Peoples Day because they are separated from their families.

"When you multiply that by their parents, they're not celebrating … the extended family," said Cora Morgan, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs' First Nations family advocate on Thursday.

"You're looking at an enormous amount of people that are suffering with the removal of children."

Morgan said that should outrage people, just as the separation of migrant children from their parents in detention centres in the U.S. is making international headlines.

"I think the concept of having your child removed is so far removed from our mainstream society," she said.

"For the most part, even here in Manitoba we don't see it, so therefore we don't know it exists or maybe we don't want to believe it."

There are 10,714 children in care in Manitoba, 89 per cent of whom are Indigenous, according to the province's latest numbers, from March 2017.

Indigenous advocate says what's happening with children in the U.S. happens every day in Canada

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Canadians are outraged about thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents in U.S. detention camps, but some advocates wonder where the outrage is here at home.

Of those children, the majority are placed in foster homes but 628 are in group homes, which Morgan said parallels the U.S. detention centres.

"In Winnipeg alone we probably have close to 100 kind of group home environments where children are being housed in these uncaring institutionalized environments," she said.

'Perverse incentives' in child welfare system: minister

Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs, was in Winnipeg Thursday for Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations. She said the number of kids in care is a humanitarian crisis.

"There are perverse incentives in this system people are calling [the] child welfare industry. It has to be dismantled," she said.

In 2017, Bennett made commitments to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs that provided funding for Morgan's office to consult with Indigenous families about how to better run child welfare.

"It is unacceptable and we have very good evidence that children removed from their families, from their language and culture do not do well," she said Thursday.

Morgan said the removal of Indigenous kids from their families is part a 150-year Canadian legacy that includes residential schools and the Sixties Scoop.

She said because the removal of Indigenous children has been happening for so long, it's become normalized for many Canadians.

"Sometimes I believe it's just become white noise for some people, and it is a real reality for our families," she said.

However, she believes if people learn more about this issue they will be more inclined to push for changes in policies to keep Indigenous children at home.