BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau on Tuesday reacting to the submission of the report “At a Crossroads: The roadmap from fiscal discrimination to equity in Indigenous child welfare’ by the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY) said that the report demonstrates once again that there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s (MCFD) practice and systems.
This continues to lead to the worst possible outcome: traumatized and underserved children and families, the majority of whom are Indigenous, she noted.
Furstenau said: “RCY found that MCFD’s system for allocating funding is broken. It was impossible for the report writers to connect spending with government priorities. There is no way to measure the impact of ministry spending on the health and well being of Indigenous children in care. There is no way to know if federal funds channeled through MCFD meant for First Nations, Métis, Inuit and Urban Indigenous children ever reached the people they were intended for.
“This is a fiscal failure, but also a human rights tragedy – and neither of these condemnations is new to this ministry. MCFD continues to show that it does not have its house in order, and that when advised of this failure of leadership, it makes little substantive change. How can we trust that MCFD will listen to RCY’s recommendations this time and make the necessary changes to best serve Indigenous families in this province? We have seen report after report on MCFD’s failures, and they have proved themselves incapable of taking accountability. The Federal government needs to bypass MCFD and work directly with First Nations, Metis, and Inuit governments, communities, and families.
“The Minister for Children and Family Development needs to demand accountability from ministry staff. The cost of that lack of accountability can be counted in lives irreparably altered or, in the most tragic cases, lost.”
MEANWHILE, Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development, said in a stetment: “I’d like to thank the representative – and the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy – for their detailed reports. My ministry will be analyzing the content of the reports in depth over the coming weeks.
“Ensuring equitable, effective funding to support Indigenous children, youth and families, both on and off reserve, is a priority for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. These reports raise long-standing fiscal and data issues that we have been working to address for some time within the ministry, with cross-ministry partners and through our tripartite working group with the Government of Canada and the First Nations Leadership Council. Our tripartite working group is the only one of its kind in Canada.
“We are committed to continuing the important work we have begun together with our partners on a new fiscal framework that will ensure equitable funding for Indigenous children, youth and families in our province.
“Each year, the ministry also works with First Nations in B.C. to develop accountability statements to track funding from the Province, and the ministry has recently met with Indigenous Child and Family Service agencies, also known as Delegated Aboriginal Agencies, to discuss funding. This is a start to improving our accountability, and we must do more.
“These reports give us valuable information that will help enhance the Province’s work to implement the action plan for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and to build the fiscal framework to ensure Indigenous children, youth and families in B.C. are supported no matter where they live.
“We know there is still much more for us to do together. It’s vital for Indigenous children to be able to access the services and supports they need, no matter where in the province they live. We are committed to continuing to work in partnership with Indigenous communities on the important issues that affect Indigenous children and families in B.C., and to ensure all Indigenous children and families have the supports they need to thrive.”
MICHAEL Crawford, President of the BC Association of Social Workers (BCASW), said: “This report is a call to recognize the unequal funding for Indigenous children compared to non-Indigenous children, and a call to see this inequity as a human rights issue. BC continues to have a significant overrepresentation of children in government care because 68 per cent of all children in care are Indigenous, yet they make up only 10 per cent of the population.”
The BCASW said it supported Representative Jennifer Charlesworth’s three main recommendations in her report. Dr. Charlesworth offers the recommendations in the context of meaningful reconciliation and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, fiscal accountability, and human rights.
The Representative found that provincial funding for Indigenous children living off-reserve is far less than federal funding for on-reserve child welfare services and that this is fiscal discrimination. The Representative recommends that the Ministry for Children and Family Development (MCFD) adopt the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal principles of funding to ensure that funding does not discriminate against off-reserve Indigenous children and those living on-reserve where no Indigenous Child and Family Service agency exists.
The Representative found that the MCFD does not properly track expenditures and outcomes for Indigenous children. Additionally, because provincial funding is tied to the number of children in care, the Representative found the system discriminates against off-reserve Indigenous children by not directing funding toward prevention through strengthening families and communities.
To improve understanding and articulation of the needs of Indigenous children, the Representative calls for MCFD to collect disaggregated race-based data. Current data collection does not allow for an examination of the full impact of fiscal discrimination.
“Indigenous Child and Family Service agencies understand the need to engage in broad-based prevention efforts to ensure healthy children, families, and communities,” said Crawford. “It’s time for the BC government to respond fully to these calls with adequate funding.”