NEWS RELEASE - February 4, 2011
(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, BC - February 4, 2011) Between June 2007 and May 2009, 21 infants tragically died in BC; 15 out of the 21 were Aboriginal. The Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, released a sobering report detailing these cases titled Fragile Lives, Fragmented Systems: Strengthening Supports for Vulnerable Infants and suggests a comprehensive plan to move forward.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said “It is absolutely unacceptable that we continue to have children and families falling through the cracks. I wholeheartedly agree with Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond that we cannot become desensitized to home environments that are unsafe for our children. We need to fully acknowledge and actively address, on an urgent basis, the root causes of the deep, debilitating, intergenerational poverty that characterizes the daily lives of the vast majority of Aboriginal families in BC.”
Turpel-Lafond noted that the common denominator in these cases was crushing poverty and BC’s fractured support system for vulnerable families. Further, the Report highlights the multiple and overlapping challenges that the children faced, including inadequate housing, domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health issues. It details that in these cases, public health, medical and child welfare issues failed to effectively assist.
“The disproportionately high number of deaths that our people face is a crisis that desperately needs a plan of action. Our people form a grossly high percentage of the missing and murdered women, youth suicides, child deaths and victims of violence; all are related to the absolute poverty that many of our communities face. The failing treaty process and the provincial approach to resource revenue-sharing are not effectively improving all of our Nation’s economies,” said Grand Chief Phillip. “Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, stated it best ‘with no economy there is no possible means of establishing an effective child welfare service.’”
Grand Chief Phillip concluded “I applaud Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond for setting out solid and feasible next steps for the Government of BC to help vulnerable children. We now call on Minister Polak to immediately implement these vital recommendations. If the Government of BC can create a task force overnight to investigate the deaths of sled dogs, surely they can put together a task force to address the unnecessary suffering and preventable deaths of vulnerable children.”
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs wishes to express our deep sympathy to the families and friends of the 21 children described in the report who lost their lives so early in life.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (604) 684-0231
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The UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.