A vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says Saskatchewan’s child welfare system is clearly broken when it comes to Indigenous children.

David Pratt was reacting to statistics released by the Ministry of Social Services earlier this week that show almost nine in 10 children in the child welfare system last year were Indigenous.

Speaking at a virtual press conference Friday morning, Pratt said it is time for a new approach.

“That system continues to break apart families, continues to not deal with the core foundational issues that our families are dealing with and that’s trauma,” he said. “A ministry that has been put there to protect in the best interests of the child and their interpretation continues to not look after the best interests of our children in care.”

Pratt said the best solution to the problem would be for the province to act more quickly on the Trudeau government’s Bill C-92 which gives Indigenous communities more control over child welfare services that affect their children.

Pratt was joined on the virtual press conference by Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili.

Meili echoed the vice-chief’s comments.

“One in 400 kids in the province is in care, which is too high, but when you look at First Nations and Métis kids that number is close to one and 10,” he said. “An enormous discrepancy and injustice that points to the great deal of work we need to do in this province.”

The NDP says introducing a poverty reduction strategy and increasing funding to mental health and addictions services are some of the measures the Sask. Party government should implement to address the root causes that are seeing high numbers of Indigenous children in provincial care.

The government numbers show close to 3,000 Indigenous children were in the provincial welfare system in 2019 – the highest number in over a decade.

The provincial total was just over 3,400.

(PHOTO: Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice-Chief David Pratt. File photo.)