Forum focused on the rights of indigenous children in care

Gwen Point will open the evening discussion, followed by special guest speaker Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Penticton Indian Band

Gwen Point

An educational forum on the rights of aboriginal children in care is slated for UFV Chilliwack campus Gathering Place on March 17.

The event marks National Indigenous Rights Education Day 2016, said event organizer Wenona Victor, an Indigenous Studies faculty member at UFV.

The forum is geared to those working in the child welfare field, but it’s also open to the public.

Gwen Point will open the evening discussion, followed by special guest speaker Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Penticton Indian Band, and several Sto:lo voices.

“This event will make people aware of two new developments,” said Victor.

One is research by Cindy Blackstock, a Gitksan Nation author who has worked in the field of child and family services for 20 years. Her work indicates an over-representation of aboriginal children in government care. Her findings point to neglect as a reason for the apprehensions, Victor noted, which stems from poverty, the reserve system and the residential school experience. Also the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the federal government is discriminating against First Nations children and their families, in care in terms of both inadequate funding and discriminatory child welfare practices.

“It’s exciting to have that finally recognized,” said Victor. “What it tells us is we don’t need more apprehensions, but we need to put resources into the communities.”

Some of the research shows that existing funding formulas actually lead to increased apprehensions.

Blackstock’s research findings show there are “three times the number of indigenous children in the care of the government now” compared to numbers at the height of residential school operations, she said.

The other exciting piece is that the “number one call to action,” coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is to do something concrete to cut apprehensions. Aimed at all levels of government the commitment was to take action to “reduce the number of aboriginal children in care.”

“According to the UN, the forceful removal of children, to be raised by a culture other than their own, is a form of genocide,” Victor said.

Forum on the rights of indigenous children in care, March 17, 6-8 pm at UFV CEP campus in Sardis in the Gathering Place.

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