Chief slams welfare for FN children
OTTAWA—Systematic under-funding of child welfare services on reserves means First Nations children today are essentially re-living the residential school nightmare that brought Canada so much shame, the national chief of the country’s largest aboriginal group said.
Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations told the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal yesterday that many reserves don’t have the wherewithal to keep children safe and in their homes when their families go through a crisis.
“Our children keep being taken away from First Nation families on reserve perhaps in even greater numbers today than during the residential school era,” Atleo told the tribunal on its first day of hearings into First Nations’ child welfare.
“It’s a pattern that looks a lot like the pattern under residential schools,” he added in an interview.
While exact totals of First Nations’ children in institutional care are impossible to come by, the AFN and experts estimate at least 27,000 aboriginal children have been removed from their immediate families.
That’s easily double the number forced away from their homes and into residential schools during the late 1940s and ’50s—a brutal period that still haunts First Nations’ families.
The tribunal is trying to determine whether the federal government discriminates against First Nations’ children in the provision of child-welfare services.