Some Sto:lo leaders are calling for the immediate dismissal of Bob Plecas, and Grand Chief Ed John, from their roles as advisors to the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development.
In a letter fired off last week to Premier Christy Clark, Grand Chief Doug Kelly, president of Sto:lo Tribal Council (STC) said the just released recent report on child welfare by Plecas, a former deputy minister, “demonstrates a calloused and ignorant opinion” about indigenous and aboriginal children in government care.
The report should be shelved right away, he said.
A resolution approved by STC members on Dec. 18, is calling for Plecas to resign, and well as for Grand Chief Edward John to step down from his MCFD advisor role, — but for different reasons.
The issues they raise about Chief John have more to do with the irreconcilable contradiction between his role as MCFD advisor, as well as a B.C. Leadership Council and First Nations Summit Task Group member.
Ernie Crey, newly elected chief of Cheam First Nation, backed the STC resolution calling for the resignations, along with Seabird Chief Clem Seymour.
Crey said First Nations leaders should be consulted directly about issues relating to aboriginal children in care, and how MCFD resources should be spent, rather than the province allowing all that work and responsibility to fall solely on the shoulders of Chief John.
As co-author of the book, Stolen From Our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities, Crey a former social worker, has a very strong interest in issues around kids in care.
“While there is a great deal of respect for Grand Chief Ed John, he should consider stepping away from his role as advisor,” Crey wrote on his Facebook page.
“The Plecas report and its recommendations constitute a danger to the many thousands of Aboriginal children in B.C. government care.
“The Grand Chief should not let his good name be sullied by the cynical manoeuverings of the Clark government,” Mr. Crey added.
The letter offers a scathing indictment of the report titled “Plecas review, Part One: Decision Time.”
According to Kelly, Plecas’ report “ignored the needs of vulnerable children and families immersed in poverty” and said the advisor “reserves his self-serving empathy for MCFD social workers, Ministers, and senior executives.”
Among other criticisms, the letter says many First Nations are fully supportive of the work of Representative of Child and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond, and object to what they view as an unjustified attack on the independent representative by moving toward the phasing out the role.
Kelly said STC members want the premier to work with the Representative for Children and Youth, the First Nations Leadership Council, the First Nations Health Council and First Nations “to transform” children and family services.
“We want to keep our children safe and our families together,” he wrote.
Many Sto:lo hold Turpel-Lafond “in the highest regard” as an advocate.
“She is a hero to us. We respect and love her courage and her dedication to improving children and family services.”
Turpel-Lafond has been highly critical of some ministry actions, and has pushed for increases in the number of front-line workers, and more MCFD funding.
“When the Representative gives you this advice – you ignore it,” Kelly wrote to Premier Clark. “When Plecas gives you the same advice – you promise to act immediately. We are left to wonder about your motives and your promise to put families first.”
The STC resolution states: “The Minister and Deputy Minister have stated in writing and in public that they are not required to consult First Nations leaders and organizations such as the First Nations Health Council because they hired Grand Chief Edward John, adding that his advisor role to MCFD “cannot be reconciled” with positions as a member of both the First Nations Summit Task Group and the BC Leadership Council.
It points out that a huge number, roughly half of the 8000 children in the care of the ministry, are aboriginal, and the interests of these children “are best served” by the independent voice and oversight provided by Turpel-Lafond’s position as the Representative, rather than the job being collapsed into the work of MCFD.