The B.C. Supreme Court says it is a human right for a mother to be able to continue breastfeeding her newborn child.
The Children and Family Development minister Hon. Mitzi Dean says that these human rights will be protected “wherever possible.” That basically sums up how she prioritizes the human rights the most vulnerable children in the province.
It is inexplicable that Premier David Eby allows this to continue while the most vulnerable children and their families are mistreated.
As a result of a B.C. Supreme Court decision, the Ministry of Children and Family Development has a policy for new mothers who have had their children removed and taken into care to accommodate the breastfeeding of those babies. It’s a compassionate policy that allows a mother and a newborn child to bond — essential first moments that can never be recovered if they are stolen from the mother and their baby.
The minister has continued to repeat her commitment to keeping Indigenous mothers, children and families together. And this week I read yet another story from the unrelenting IndigiNews reporter Anna McKenzie about a child two days old taken from her mother, Chelsey Woodward, in Surrey, and sent to a home in Langley.
The mother does not have a vehicle. The breastfeeding is not being accommodated, even with a remarkable network of individuals and organizations mobilizing for Chelsey and her child. More of the same cruel punishment from this minister for this mother and her child.
To the Child Development Minister, when is this minister going to demonstrate that she actually cares about the well-being of Indigenous mothers and their newborn babies?
Hon. M. Dean:
Thank you so much to the member for the question.
We know that it’s absolutely vital for babies to be able to be breastfed wherever possible, and the ministry makes every effort to make sure that that is accommodated. We know that that benefits the attachment and the bonding between the infant and the mother, and every effort is made to make sure that that can be accommodated.
A lot of changes have been made in the ministry in order to make sure that Indigenous families are kept together wherever that is possible and that steps are taken to make sure that that close relationship and bonding and that sense of belonging is nurtured, because we know that that leads to the best outcomes for children and families.
Mr. Speaker: Member, supplemental.
Whenever possible. Human rights whenever possible, for this minister? Honestly?
Whenever possible. That’s not what the court said. The courts didn’t say: “Whenever possible.” That’s what the minister is saying.
I’ve heard how exasperated front-line MCFD workers are with their leadership, expressing that they’re tired and frustrated. This ministry needs new leadership.
This ministry spends $135,000 per child per year on those children in care. Apparently, not enough cash for this mother to get a ride to her child so they can experience what the courts say is a human right. An unbreakable bond between the mother and their baby.
This B.C. NDP minister and this Premier — the backbench, like the last — is propping up a child welfare system that has destroyed families, yet somehow, even with the blinding spotlight on this minister, her deputy minister, the ministry — they continue to deliver those stories to question period. It feels like they actually revel in this attention.
To the minister responsible for the well-being of the most vulnerable children and families in this province, when is she going to do the honorable thing, fire her deputy minister and then step down?
Hon. M. Dean:
I absolutely understand the passion and the question from the member. We know that for far too long, this ministry and the colonial system of government has been over-intrusive in the lives of Indigenous children and youth and families and has caused harm and intergenerational trauma.
Since 2017, our government has been committed to addressing the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in care. We know that that leads to poorer outcomes, and so we have changed legislation. We have changed policy. We have invested in the budget of this ministry.
Last year, unanimously in this chamber, we passed historic legislation to support Indigenous communities exercising their inherent jurisdiction over services for children and youth and families. We’re investing in young people transitioning into adulthood and leaving the government care system. We have harmonized rates so that kids who are able to stay with close family or with community are able to be supported the same way as kids coming into foster care, preventing more kids coming into foster care.
We actually now have the lowest number of kids in care in over 30 years and Indigenous kids in care in over 20 years. I know there’s a lot more work to do, and we’re absolutely committed, and I am driven to making sure that we make those improvements.