By Ryan McKenna
THE CANADIAN PRESS
REGINA-Saskatchewan’s Opposition is calling on the provincial government to appoint an Indigenous children’s advocate.
NDP deputy leader Carla Beck says there must be an immediate change to ensure vulnerable children can be kept in their homes. The New Democrats also want a review of child-welfare legislation.
“This is an issue that with the status quo, with promises by the government but not backing them up, is getting worse,’’ Beck said Wednesday. “We are seeing a higher percentage of kids in care and we are seeing the overall numbers increasing.’’
The number of children in out-of-home care in Saskatchewan was 5,257 at the end of March.
The government says that figure represents all children in the province’s care, including kids who are in the care of extended family or who are seized off-reserve and then transferred to a First Nations child and family services agency.
Beck says the creation of an Indigenous children’s advocate is supported by Saskatchewan’s children’s advocate and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
Saskatchewan children’s advocate Corey O’Soup said in a statement Thursday that he supports an Indigenous children’s advocate who works for the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and is not provincially funded.
The government issued a statement saying it believes all children should have access to an independent advocate. The statement didn’t specifically address the call for a separate Indigenous children’s advocate but noted that O’Soup is the first Indigenous person to hold the position.
A camp with more than a dozen teepees has been set up across from the legislature since late February, in part to highlight the disproportionate number of Indigenous children apprehended by child-welfare workers.
Protesters and government officials met July 2 to discuss concerns but protesters have said they will stay put until at least a second meeting is arranged.
Regina police officers moved in to break up the camp last month – arresting six people before releasing them without charge – but more teepees were set up
again a few days later.
“You cannot arrest your way out of this,’’ said Buckley Belanger, NDP critic for First Nations and Metis relations. “There has to be some
significant work in fixing the system.’’