For weeks now Minister of Children and Family Development (MCFD), Hon. Mitzi Dean, has been defending her decision to change the funding model for children with autism and other neurodiverse conditions.
I have asked her a few questions on this issue (here and here) and raised it again in the context of Indigenous children and youth accessing an MCFD run “hub.”
The relationship between MCFD and Indigenous people is fraught with harm and mistrust from the systemic racism in the Ministry. The proposed changes will create barriers to services for Indigenous and racialized children.
All Minister Dean could do was provide a list of things government has done with limited or no improvement for Indigenous families.
My question is to the Minister of Children and Family Development. Does the minister recognize that the ugly history between MCFD and Indigenous children and families is rooted in harm and mistrust and that this scarred relationship remains to this day?
Hon. M. Dean:
Thank you to the member for the question. We do recognize that for many, many decades, there has been an overintrusion of government into Indigenous families and Indigenous communities. Our government is taking steps to address that.
We’ve changed the provincial law that enables MCFD staff to be able to work closely with Indigenous communities. When there is a concern about an Indigenous child, social workers are able to actually approach Indigenous communities, ask if there is somebody there — an aunty or a relative — who is able to offer a safe home for that child, so that children and youth can stay connected to their family, to their community and to their culture.
We’ve also increased the rate for out-of-care carers so that they receive the same financial support as foster carers. We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of Indigenous children that are in out-of-care placements rather than being brought into the government child welfare system. But there is a lot more to do. Even with the federal act coming into power, we know that there is a lot more to do. We are absolutely committed to doing that work with Indigenous communities.
Mr. Speaker: Member — supplemental.
I appreciate the response, and I think the minister needs to check in within the ministry, to see if the changes that have been put in place are actually being implemented on the ground. But I am challenged with the minister’s response and how it can be squared with subjecting neurodiverse Indigenous children to her proposed MCFD-run hubs.
The proposal will arguably deepen access barriers for Indigenous and racialized people who are disproportionately targeted by MCFD. Their families are frequently ripped apart by the consequences of systemic racism within that ministry. This system will further disadvantage Indigenous and racialized children. It creates new and deeper barriers within a system that is, by its very nature, focused on individualized and diverse community service opportunities and possibilities. Further, by moving to an MCFD controlled and centralized hub model, the opportunities for culturally appropriate services is further reduced.
Through you to the Minister of Children and Family Development, does she expect neurodiverse Indigenous children and families to feel safe accessing an MCFD-run hub?
Hon. M. Dean:
Thank you to the member for the opportunity of explaining to members here that services for children and youth with support needs will be delivered by community, in community, and in response to the needs of the community. We actually have an advisory circle — an Indigenous circle — advising us on how we move forward, to ensure that not only are we able to create Indigenous-led services, but that all services are culturally safe and properly informed, and that all staff have the appropriate training and knowledge and experience and expertise to make sure that all services delivered in-community are culturally safe and accessible.
I would like to take this opportunity to inform the member that these services will be delivered by community agencies and by Indigenous agencies that will have multidisciplinary teams and have multiple points of access. Our expectation as the ministry will be that community agencies will step up in collaboration and partnership with local communities, local Nations, and local agencies.
The work that the ministry has done over the last four years has been significant. There has been a significant change in our approach to working with Indigenous communities. We have changed provincial legislation. We have changed policy and practice. Currently, we have the lowest number of Indigenous children and youth in care in 20 years.