Aboriginal Child Welfare Debate Continues

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 at 15:56



Another round of criticism is being directed towards the Department of Community Resources by the province’s Children’s Advocate.


It comes in the form of a report, which was read to government MLAs yesterday in the Saskatchewan legislature.


The report says the government is placing too much emphasis on things unrelated to the direct well-being of children in government care.


Among other things, Marvin Bernstein feels the department worries too much about cultural programming for Aboriginal youth, the wishes of their parents, and outside agendas.


Last fall, Bernstein released another report which blasted the government over its handling of the Oyate Safe House file.


He mentions the Oyate affair in his latest report, saying it demonstrates how the government can’t continue to place other agendas ahead of children’s best interests.


Community Resources Minister Buckley Belanger says he does not agree with some of the statements made by the Children’s Advocate.


However, Belanger says he will accept the report with an open mind and read over its suggestions.


He says his department is committed to the well-being of the children in its care and will do everything it can for them.


However, Belanger insists his department never places anything ahead of child safety.


At the same time, Belanger says it wouldn’t make sense for the department to completely ignore the background of the children or their family situation.


Belanger also denies that political pressure plays a part in his department’s decision-making.


A vice-chief with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations says a number of the points outlined in Bernstein’s report are accurate and need to be addressed.


Guy Lonechild says the FSIN agrees with most of Bernstein’s conclusions about kids in care.


However, Lonechild says when Bernstein says political agendas and cultural and language concerns are being placed ahead of the children’s safety, that isn’t true — especially as far as the FSIN is concerned.


Lonechild says more funding is desperately needed within child and family services to make the appropriate changes.


He stresses a similar approach to the recently-announced Alberta Child and Family Services model needs to be adopted by Saskatchewan.