Manitoba First Nations family advocate hopeful as TRC final report released
'This is just optimism that I never had,' Cora Morgan says
Manitoba's First Nations family advocate is excited about the prospect of changes in Canada's child-welfare system after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report was released Tuesday.
"This is just optimism that I never had because working in the system, it's been really hard, and we've only been around for not even seven months now," said Cora Morgan, who was appointed the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs First Nations advocate for children in care earlier this year.
"So we see those challenges, but with this broader understanding and national understanding, I'm hoping it effects change in Manitoba."
The TRC report details the impacts of Canada's residential schools and calls for action in a number of areas, including child welfare.
- Truth and Reconciliation final report marks start of 'new era'
- TRC final report points to 'growing crisis' for indigenous youth
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 recommendations
The high number of incarcerated indigenous youth and "the even more dramatic overrepresentation" of indigenous children in the care of child-welfare agencies are connected, the report says, and are in part explained by the way indigenous people were treated in residential schools.
The commission has made 94 recommendations that Prime Minister Trudeau's government has already pledged to implement.
"To know that this Liberal government has committed to fulfilling all 94 [recommendations] is very exciting — especially for me in my role, because the first five recommendations are around child welfare," Morgan said.
"I choose to believe that in the days of residential school, mainstream society wasn't aware of what was happening to these children, and I choose to believe that during the Sixties Scoop era, that mainstream society wasn't aware," she said.
"So what my hope is now is that mainstream society and broader Canada understands this child-welfare system in Canada."
There are more than 300 child-welfare agencies in Canada operating under provincial and territorial jurisdiction.
The commission is urging all levels of government — federal, provincial, territorial and aboriginal — to work together to reform Canada's justice and child-welfare systems.
Not a matter of 'forgiving the white people'
Dylan Cohen grew up in Manitoba group homes.
"We were apprehended because of neglect," said Cohen. "My mother was ripped out of her home and placed her into a home -- placed into a white family who abused her, sexually, physically and emotionally, her whole upbringing. She didn't have the capabilities or the skills to parent children."
At 13, he was placed in the CFS system along with his brother.
Cohen, now 20 years old, said he's excited there's a promise to work toward reconciliation and thinks Tuesday's news is a step in the right direction.
"All those kids that age out every day, everyone that is left behind by the system can't just get over it. It's not a matter of just getting an education. It's not a matter of walking away from colonialism and forgiving the white people," he said. "We need to work together and acknowledge that indigenous people and the kids in CFS need support to keep going."
TRC's 5 child-welfare recommendations
The commission's five recommendations related to child welfare are:
1. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of aboriginal children in care ….
2. We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, to prepare and publish annual reports on the number of aboriginal children who are in care, compared with non-aboriginal children, as well as the reasons for apprehension, the total spending on preventive and care services by child-welfare agencies and the effectiveness of various interventions.
3. We call upon all levels of government to fully implement Jordan's Principle. [Jordan's Principle, named for Jordan River Anderson of Norway House Cree Nation, seeks to ensure First Nations children with complex health needs who are caught in jurisdictional fights between the federal, provincial and band governments are not denied access to public health services.]
4. We call upon the federal government to enact aboriginal child-welfare legislation that establishes national standards for aboriginal child apprehension and custody cases ….
5. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial and aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs for aboriginal families.
With files from the CBC's Susana Mas