Indigenous

Grandmothers walk in protest against child welfare system, proposed federal legislation

Led by a group of grandmothers, people walked from four directions Friday in Winnipeg to support grandmothers and mothers who have had children taken by the child welfare system and to protest Bill C-92.

Walk from 4 directions converges at Winnipeg's Museum for Human Rights

Grandmothers lead Friday's walk, which came from four different parts of the city, with everyone meeting at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Led by a group of grandmothers, people walked from four directions Friday in Winnipeg to support grandmothers and mothers who have had children taken by the child welfare system and to protest Bill C-92.

The walk started in four different Winnipeg locations at 10 a.m. and converged at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights at The Forks before noon.

Martina, one of the grandmothers on the walk, said today's child welfare system is worse than residential schools. CBC is withholding her last name to avoid identifying family members involved in CFS proceedings, which is forbidden by Manitoba's Child and Family Services Act.

Instead of being taken away to residential schools at age three, four and five, she said, Indigenous children are now being apprehended by CFS at birth.

"The worst thing about that is that they cut the bond right at birth," she said.

"A lot of the young mothers are afraid during their pregnancy that CFS is going to be there when the baby is born."

Martina has two daughters and four grandchildren. Both of her daughters have recently been involved with Child and Family Services.

She said she has gotten involved in child welfare advocacy to help her family and others in her First Nation.

"When I became involved with my daughter's situation, CFS didn't want to let me inside that meeting room," she said.

"I had to stand up and say 'This is about my daughter. This is about my grandchildren.'"

The walk was to protest the proposed federal Indigenous child welfare legislation Bill C-92. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Breaking the cycle

One of her daughters has had her CFS file closed for a year, while the other daughter's file is still open. She said trying to get a file closed has become a barrier for parents trying to get their children back.

"They tell the parents to get into programs and when they do programs, they add on more and more [programming]," she said.

She said advocating for her daughters and grandchildren is a way of breaking the cycle of parenting struggles that started with residential schools.

"As a grandmother today, I have a second chance to be a better parent, a better grandma," said Martina.

"My mom went to residential school. I didn't know how to parent, my mom didn't know how to parent.

"Today I have an opportunity to be with my grandchildren in a more positive way, talking to them, being with them, helping them, teaching them, things that I couldn't do with my own children."

Walk against Bill C-92

The walk was organized in Winnipeg by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the First Nations Family Advocate Office and is being held Friday to support grandmothers and mothers who will be without their families on Mother's Day this weekend.

Cora Morgan, the First Nations Family Advocate in Manitoba, addresses the crowd at The Forks. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Cora Morgan, the First Nations Family Advocate in Manitoba, said the walk is also an opportunity to voice opposition to the proposed Indigenous child welfare legislation Bill C-92 and to promote the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs' own Bringing Our Children Home Act.

Morgan said Bill C-92 was drafted without consultation from First Nations leadership in Manitoba, and that it promotes a pan-Indigenous solution.

"We have our Bringing Our Children Home Act which spells out full jurisdiction restored for our First Nation communities in Manitoba," said Morgan.

Morgan said the AMC's act has been in development for 30 years and was guided by elders, women, chiefs and First Nations child welfare experts.

Led by a group of grandmothers, people walked from four directions Friday in Winnipeg to support grandmothers and mothers who have had children taken by the child welfare system and to protest Bill C-92. 1:44

About the Author

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He is the co-founder of Red Rising Magazine and has been an associate producer with the CBC's Indigenous unit for three years. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1