SECWEPEMC NATION (December 15th, 2015): First of all, we must acknowledge what an incredibly important topic this is, not just for First Nations people but for all people. Children have a special place in all of our hearts and we recognize that the emotions being brought into the conversation surrounding this report are heightened, and rightfully so.
Part One of the Plecas Review has brought many significant issues to light. Mainly, that the foundation upon which MCFD was crafted is, and always has been, structurally flawed. As First Nations leaders, we have always known this as it is disproportionately our children who are suffering the most through this broken system. While we fundamentally disagree with the position Mr. Plecas has taken on these issues, a few of his conclusions have merit.
At the very beginning of his report, Mr. Plecas discusses levels of responsibility and aptly points out that we live in a society where we only lay blame with the government when things go wrong; not the parents, families, or communities who have the foremost responsibility to these children. This is one sentiment of the report that we can fully get behind as it is something we have been saying for decades. As First Nations leaders, we have continuously called upon the Provincial government to step aside and make room for us to obtain the full jurisdiction and responsibility over our own children. With over 60.6% of children in care being Aboriginal and another scathing report at their doorstep, perhaps now the province will take our plea into more serious contemplation.
Mr. Plecas concludes his overview by stating: “Collectively, we need to move beyond the blame game and to provide the required leadership for a successful plan. That leadership, in my view, starts with the elected Members of the Legislature.” We agree that we must move beyond pointing blame, but in our view, this has to start with First Nations leaders having a seat at the table and being key decision makers in everything that has to do with our children and families. Mr. Plecas makes the suggestion of MCFD hiring an Indigenous person in the role of Assistant Deputy Minister in charge of Aboriginal Programs; this is a start, but we need more.
As Kukpi7 Wayne Christian, SNTC Tribal Chief and Chief of Splatsín, expressed: “Decision Time is about Leaders from all political stripes needing to stop blaming each other and make a decision to lead – the system is broken and bringing in a retired bureaucrat who was the architect of the current MCFD will not address the issues. Premier Clark needs to step up and lead or step down as she is not providing leadership for the children and families of BC. We, as Chiefs, also need to step up and lead for our children and demand recognition of our laws for our children and families.”
The Sword of Damocles is hanging over all our heads, not just the social workers as expressed by Plecas. It is time for us as leaders to step up, be honest about our shortcomings, and commit ourselves to doing a better job for our most vulnerable children. These children in care only have one childhood and we can’t afford another 35 years of getting it wrong. We strongly call upon the Premier and her cabinet to meet with us and chart a new course forward where we can secure better outcomes for our children.