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B.C. lagging behind Ottawa in support for Indigenous children, study finds

Gap in funding ‘troubling,’ children’s representative says
Mitzi Dean, B.C.’s minister of children and family development, speaks in the B.C. legislature, Nov. 24, 2021. (Hansard TV)

The federal government has increased financial support for Indigenous families on reserves, but B.C. has not kept up for Metis, Inuit and urban Indigenous children in care of the province, Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth says.

Charlesworth released a report Tuesday that fails to fully evaluate the provincial supports, because the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development is unable to track how federal and provincial funds are reaching individuals.

“The findings of this report are troubling,” Charlesworth said in releasing the report March 29. “First, the level of child welfare services a First Nations, Métis, Inuit or urban Indigenous child or family receives depends on where they live – on- or off-reserve, due to differing funding sources – and who they are served by. This leads to gaps and inequities that have no place in a province committed to reconciliation.

“Second, MCFD’s system for allocating funding is so broken that it is not possible to link ministry funding with the commitments to reconciliation government has made or to outcomes for kids. Without knowing how much money is spent on Indigenous child welfare and what the outcomes of those expenditures are, how can any assessment be made of how well First Nations, Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous children and families are being supported in B.C.?”

Ottawa increased its support for on-reserve children and families after a 2016 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that said it should fund the actual costs of providing culturally appropriate, needs-based prevention services. The report finds that the B.C. system has not kept up.

Charlesworth says that as of 2022, Indigenous children are nearly three quarters of all children in provincial care, even though they are only 10 per cent of the total B.C. population. She called on B.C. Children and Family Development Minister Mitzi Dean to adopt the federal approach to funding services.

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Dean said Tuesday the province is working on the third phase of a transition to track where support money is going, through a complex network of delegated Indigenous agencies. B.C. has moved to fund extended family members to care for children, keeping them connected to their communities and culture, she said.

“Each year, the ministry also works with First Nations in B.C. to develop accountability statements to track funding from the province, and the ministry has recently met with Indigenous Child and Family Service agencies, also known as Delegated Aboriginal Agencies, to discuss funding,” Dean said. “This is a start to improving our accountability, and we must do more.”


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