Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society http://alivesociety.ca on unceded Coast Salish territory Mon, 22 Oct 2018 19:45:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 http://alivesociety.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/cropped-alive-icon-32x32.png Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society http://alivesociety.ca 32 32 Britannia Salish Community Honouring Ceremony http://alivesociety.ca/2017/04/19/britannia-salish-community-honouring-ceremony/ Wed, 19 Apr 2017 22:59:26 +0000 http://alivesociety.ca/?p=1010 “I was very honoured today to witness the Britannia Honouring Ceremony, where community members were blanketed in recognition of their work with at risk youth and in many other fields. The traditional Coast Salish ceremony included drumming and singing and is just one example of the grassroots work for reconciliation taking place in our city”- Geoff Meggs, Deputy Mayor (via facebook)

 

On February 28th 2017 Britannia hosted its first ever Salish Honouring Ceremony. This inclusive, Salish-style ceremony was an opportunity to hold up the individuals who go above and beyond in our community.

Under the direction of Sam George and Kat Norris, recognized Salish cultural leaders, the Britannia Community Honouring Ceremony recognized a diverse group, consisting of residents, staff and volunteers who were nominated by their peers, fellow community members, friends and/or colleagues to represent the collective achievements of our community through their own valued contributions. The ceremony was intended to reflect the spirit of the Reconciliation and Inclusion work currently underway at Britannia which aims to build on local strengths and engage the various parts of our neighbourhood to create meaningful and sustainable change.

“I was so happy to be able to take part in Salish Ceremony in my own neighbourhood. This was a great experience, and I hope these types of opportunities continue”- Indigenous Elder

 

 

 

 

 

 

Witnesses included Deputy Mayor, Geoff Meggs, VPL Manager Megan Langley, VSB District Principal for Aboriginal Education, Don Fiddler, Vancouver Park Board General Manager, Malcolm Bromley,and Danica Djurkovic, City of Vancouver.

Honourees:
John Pozdik, or “Tall John,” is a lifelong community volunteer, having volunteered since the age of 14 locally in places including Mt. Pleasant Elementary, BYRC, and programs at Britannia. He lives in Vancouver and currently works in construction. (Nominated by Britannia VPL)

Andrew Coombes has 12 years experience working in the field of mental health and addictions with at-risk youth. For the last five years he has worked with dedication and compassion doing street outreach to at-risk youths in the Britannia area. (Nominated by Britannia VPL)

Allan Williams Jr, or AJ, is well-known and connected in the East Vancouver community. He is a familiar face at Britannia, Raycam, and the Aboriginal Friendship Centre. You might recognize him at community events, sharing his drumming and dancing along with his family as the Four Fires Society. (Nominated by Britannia VPL)

Annie Danilko was born in Queen Charlotte City in 1961 and lived in Masset, BC until she was 12. Annie moved to Vancouver in 2003 to be with family and started working for the community at the GV Food Bank. Annie has shared her time mentoring youth at Off The Grill, volunteering and participating in Elder’s programs and preparing food to share at community events. (Nominated by Grandview-Woodland Food Connection)

Bill Lightbown is a Haida-Kootenay Elder who has lived in the Commercial Drive area on and off since he first moved here at the age of 15. Bill attended high school at Britannia and was a regular at the Grandview Pool Hall. Bill recalls how some of his first encounters with racism in this neighbourhood motivated him to get involved in politics and dedicate his life to improving the conditions for Indigenous peoples in Canada, alongside his partner, Lavina. In April, Bill will be turning 90. Some of his accomplishments include helping to create the BC Association of Non-Status Indians (later the UNN) and Vancouver Native Housing. He was also a prominent figure in the 1995 Gustafsen Lake Standoff. Bill continues his service to this neighbourhood, sharing his vast knowledge with younger generations, combatting social isolation (if you sit next to him on the bus, be prepared to have a conversation) and volunteering as a director for ALIVE and the North West Indigenous Council. Haida Gwaii is home to Bill. (Nominated by “Our Place”)

Lori Snyder works as our resident Indigenous herbalist and on the carving Pavilion Garden. Lori is also working closely with the Britannia garden program and Outreach Alternative in the carving pavilion garden and in class. Lori leads Britannia towards innovative food practices with her strong vision of a re-indigenized food system. Her projects include the planting of indigenous berry bushes all around the site and the community where people can freely harvest healthy Indigenous food.(Nominated by Grandview-Woodland Food Connection)

Anne Prince – also known as ‘Annie’ is Residential School Survivor from the Takla Lake First Nation. She is Beaver clan and her traditional name is Kqueast. She is a mother, grandmother, and great, great, great aunt. She has been a resident of metro Vancouver since 1965 and dedicated her life and career to helping people.Today Anne continues to work as an Urban Aboriginal Learning Outreach Facilitator where she assists people, of Aboriginal ancestry, prepare for higher learning and employment and is a valued member and leader in the Britannia 55+ Centre. (Nominated by Britannia Seniors)

Todd DeVries also known by his Haida name “Giihlgiigaa” shares his skills, knowledge, and stories with others in Britannia’s weaving circles. He welcomes everyone, young and old into his classes and reminds us he does not “own” the skills. His patience, humour, and cultural sharing makes everyone feel welcome and included. (nominated by Britannia seniors)

Yukiko Tosa is the long-time director of the Britannia VPL branch. She is a graduate of Britannia Secondary School, where she began her advocacy as a student, working together with fellow students and her teacher Mr. Minichiello to begin the development of the vibrant community space that Britannia has become. She remains a passionate promoter of the young people in this changing community, working to create opportunities for everyone in the community to feel included and to succeed. (Nominated by Britannia Board)

Rebecca Jules is a community advocate. In her work at Britannia, she has connected with and advocated for many of the hardest to reach youth. She has provided opportunities, teachings, and safe spaces, encouraged positive lifestyle choices, and connected youth to services, programs and adult mentors. She also worked with the community to educate in cultural practices and understanding. (Nominated by Britannia Youth)

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OUR PLACE Quarterly Newsletter FALL 2016 http://alivesociety.ca/2016/11/10/our-place-quarterly-newsletter-fall-2016/ Thu, 10 Nov 2016 00:34:09 +0000 http://alivesociety.ca/?p=981 Downloadable PDF: OUR PLACE NEWSLETTER AUGUST 2016

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Community Honouring Event April 4th, 2016 http://alivesociety.ca/2016/05/28/community-honouring-event-april-4th-2016/ Sat, 28 May 2016 22:57:47 +0000 http://alivesociety.ca/alive/?p=265 gradstrategyOn April 4th the community gathered to celebrate a diverse group of community builders in Vancouver’s inner city helping to create a new culture in our neighbourhood where all our children graduate from high school. Together we demonstrated that reconciliation must go beyond words and recognize the everyday commitment of local community members- parents, grandparents, teachers, students, youth leaders and resource workers- who have been instrumental in supporting the learning journey of the community and in realizing success as defined by the community.

The event was an opportunity to introduce the work of Vancouver’s Inner City community members involved in the Graduation Strategy and to inspire further collaboration toward building positive futures for our children and families.

The Salish style honouring ceremony was designed to be inclusive and reflected the spirit of the Strategy, a prenatal to postsecondary continuum, which aims to build on local strengths, capacities and naturally occurring networks of support to create meaningful and sustainable change and truly make a difference in the educational outcomes of students in the Inner City.

Click here to watch Access TV’s segment on the Community Honouring Ceremony.

We were fortunate to have local Salish leaders Shane Pointe and Nelson Leon to guide us in our community honouring ceremony which took place in the RayCam gymnasium.

 

About Salish Ceremonies

Any gathering within the Salish perspective is acknowledged as a ceremony.  Ceremonies follow a set of practices and protocols and generally held in big houses also called longhouses. Though ceremonies went underground, they continued up to the present time. They are times for ‘work,’ such as traditional naming ceremonies, memorials, burnings, or as times of ‘intervention’ type healing for families.  Traditional languages are spoken at these events, often translated. For this inclusive public event, certain Salish protocols were followed including opening prayer, gifting, blanketing, utilizing a ‘speaker,’ and inviting ‘witnesses,’. Nelson Leon was brought on to direct the afternoon, acting as emcee and speaker and was the liaison between the ‘family’ organizing the event, guests and honourees.  Under the direction of the family, Nelson called witnesses just as the ceremony was about to get underway.

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Witness Ceremony

In a Salish  ceremony, the witness ceremony is intended to ensure that pertinent community members “witness” certain events, such as a Naming or Honouring Ceremony.  Individuals are called by their name, to ‘officially’ witness the event. They then stand up,  and the family or in this case, committee will walk over to you.  They each hand witnesses two quarters.  This is known as a ‘handshake’; a gift and  acknowledgement for the work of witnessing. Those who accept to witness are responsible for ensuring that the community knows that this event occured,  and to vouch for the integrity of the ceremony, sharing to their family or community what occured at the event.

The gifting of two quarters is not looked upon as a payment, but accepting the responsibility and acknowledgment of the important role at the event.

In the bighouse fashion, witnesses or elders who carry the knowledge, will often address the family, acknowledging the importance of what they have done.  For memorials and namings the elder or  witnesses who hold knowledge,  will show their great care for the family and for tradition and will “share word,” (give advice)  to the family organizing, those who have lost a loved one,  or those receiving names.  In the context of this event, witnesses were asked to share a few words near the end of the event.

The Honouring Ceremony

Students:

Alicia Lopez- Alicia Lopez a is 14 years old and in grade 9 .  She attends Britannia Secondary school and enjoys playing ball, singing and music.

Kimberly Cureg- is one of the many members of Pathways.  She is 14 years old, in grade 9 and currently attending Britannia. Her interests are adventuring and all types of arts. Pathways is an upbeat and supportive environment where kids like her can ACTUALLY have fun learning with her fellow peers as well as open new possibilities.

 JJ Morcilla-  Jeremiah Morcilla, is 15 years old in grade 9 at King George Secondary.  His interests are computers and playing basketball, volleyball, football and video games.

Parents:

Linda Talio-  is a survivor of the residential school and her life has been impacted by intergeneration trauma.  A motherof two boys and a grandmother of four beautiful children. Linda grew up in different places and different homes across British Columbia but Vancouver has been home since 1970.  Linda shares that she didn’t have an easy life  in school and eventually dropped out.

Linda shared she was bullied at school because of a learning disability and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).  Then, later in her life she met someone that loves her for who she is. It wasn´t til about 12 years ago, when she was diagnosed.  It was hard to accept her disorder but she said, “once I started talking about it I started the healing process and it was easier to find the right supports and feel more confident about going back to school.”

Linda got her grade 12 and graduated  July 2015.  She  is now in her third term as a board member of Ray-Cam Co-operative Centre which gives her the opportunity to contribute  ideas to support the families in this neighbourhood, particularly aboriginal families. When she was finishing her grade 12     she was able to access mentoring and tutoring support at Ray-Cam Co-operative Centre which made a big difference to strengthen her confidence and increase her learning expectations.

she says, “For me to go back to school and get my grade 12 was a big personal accomplishment and I look forward to continuing my education to become an early childhood educator and find employment in this area”

Coleen Johnson- is from Bella Bella, BC-Heiltsuk Nation and now resides in Strathcona. Collen is a mother of three children who are engaged and active participants in the different programs at Ray-Cam. Because of her commitment to strengthening her skills through training and education, she has been awarded certificates in: FASD, food safe, family support worker training, first aid, training for empowering and supporting youth, Early Childhood Education Assistant Certificate as well as training to intervene and support people with suicidal ideation. Collen says, “Having support services and programs that are available in my neighbourhood made it possible for me to continue to strengthen my skills and education. I am well aware about the struggles of indigenous families from my own experience and I had the opportunity to join the Ray-Cam board of directors and to support other families and make the difference to improve their lives in a positive manner.”   Collen strongly believes that education and more learning opportunities can help our communities break the cycle of poverty and violence.

Grandparents:

Loretta Tait- Loretta Tait (Loluc “voice for little people” in Gitxsanimaax language)

Loretta is a proud Gitxsan grandmother of five, and the fulltime caregiver of three of them. She grew up on reserve until she was 6 years old and only spoke her language, Gitxsanimaax & learned to speak English at 9 years old.  Loretta is a residential school survivor and says although she experienced a lot of discrimination at home with her adoptive family as well as in schools, she finished her secondary education and did two years of post-secondary.

She went on to study to be a community support worker as well as a drug and alcohol counselor and feels proud of starting the first cultural support program at the Native Child and Family Services in Toronto & a native youth group to create programs that catalyzed change- when she lived in Ontario.  She goes on to say, “Today I want my kids and my grandkids to love and like themselves. I want them to feel proud and strong about who they are. I am working hard to teach them how to communicate in healthy ways and also give them sense of  responsibility. I want to inspire them to learn about native culture without imposing on them. When I got custody of my granddaughter I encouraged her to go back to school and I am supporting her through this journey & she will be graduating next year!

Young Leaders:

Jessica Savoy- Jessica is Nisgaa, she has been a leader for both the RISE program, an Aboriginal youth leadership and development program and Naskarz and is currently completing her undergraduate degree at Langara. Through her work, Jessica engages with youth and families through arts, culture and recreation. She is committed to facilitating new understandings and positive relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community members and acting as a role model for other youth with the hope that Aboriginal leadership and influence becomes a visible presence across the city. Jessica was recently selected for a position with the Representative for children and youth with their Aboriginal Youth team.

Health Care Providers:

 Lorine Scott- was a nurse practictioner, and is now a Family Nurse Practitioner. Lorine has long recognized the challenges facing many families in accessing needed health care.  She has  a passion for children’s health, trying to be a part of ensuring that every child has the ability to reach their full potential, and believes that in order to achieve that  – the family must have access to accessible services that truly meet their needs in the communities they live in.

Lorine wanted to make a difference in the way health intersected and partnered with communities and families. Working for BC Children’s, she was a part of the development of the RICHER program because it was created with the community – based on what community and  families who live there want from the health care system.…creating a culture of change.
She says she has learned so much from all the community agencies, providers and most importantly the families – and that it has been a privilege to have worked in this community, the heart of the folks here is an inspiration to all of us in health care for sure.

Teachers:

Kim Leary- Kim has been a teacher at Britannia Secondary for 8 years, where she has devoted her energies to helping students believe that academic success is well within their reach. As the Executive Director of Homework Club, she puts that ethos into practice, providing students with everything they need to reach their potential – access to free tutoring, hot meals and snacks, school supplies and textbooks, computers, and an unwavering belief in the strengths and talents of the young people in this community.

Adult Education –

Hendrik Hoekema- Hendrik has a life long commitment to adult education.  He was a pioneer in offering university courses in Canadian penitentiaries, changing the lives of many.   In 1985, he founded Vancouver Eastside Educational Enrichment Society (VEEES), overseeing the following employment programs: jobSTART, PACE2, newSTART, and newCHAPTER.  Hendrik has served on the Boards of Directors for numerous societies, including the Network of Inner city community services society,BOB, Lookout, and the Inner City Housing Society. As a founding member of Our Place, Hendrik has led the Economic Development focus and continues to play a role in the downtown eastside Economic Strategy.   He has been honoured by SFU as a Distinguished Graduate, and is a recipient of the Queen’s Medal for making a real difference to the community.

In Memoriam: Lynda Hurst

Lynda worked with Hendrik Hoekema for many years at VEEES/NewStart. Her death was a shock to the community. Through her passion for her work, Lynda assisted over 1,000 women overcome difficulties to improve their lives through access to education and bridging women to employment. Lynda lived and breathed her work– she was passionate, consistent and went above and beyond to ensure women in our community overcome barriers to education and employment.                                

Recreation Programs:

 Ron Suzuki- Ron Suzuki is retiring from his job as a Recreation Programmer after 41 years in the position. He has worked in several Vancouver communities, including Riley Park, Kerrisdale, Sunset and Mount Pleasant but his last 16 years has been at Strathcona, where he has been a pillar of the community and the community centre.  Ron has built many of the programs that have become essential parts of the community fabric, including the Backpack and Breakfast programs, Afterschool Adventures child care program and the basketball program. Ron’s unwavering enthusiasm, dedication, hard-work and his passion for the community will be missed but we are grateful for the legacies that he leaves behind.

Early Learning and Childcare:

 Jollean Kenan- Jollean has been the leader in Ray-Cam Cooperative Centre’s daycare since 1989. Through her long connection to the community Jollean has been a support, teacher and mentor to countless children and families. Jollean believes that education is the most valuable thing we can provide for our children, as she says, it is the stepping stone for children. Jollean firmly believes that parents are the ones to inspire children to learn and they open the door for learning and support. Jollean’s motto: “Every moment is a teaching moment!”

 

 

 

 

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Indigenous Fashion Show and ReMatriate Dialogue at the VPL http://alivesociety.ca/2015/08/14/indgenous-fashion-show/ Fri, 14 Aug 2015 19:40:10 +0000 http://alivesociety.ca/alive/2015/08/14/indgenous-fashion-show-and-rematriate-dialogue-at-the-vpl/ In partnership with the Vancouver Public Library, ReMatriate, the Pacific Association of First Nations Women, All My Relations Entertainment and Changemakers Vancouver RISE leader Joleen Mitton organized a spectacular event at the Main Branch of the Vancouver Public Library as part of the VPL’s Multicultural Day Celebration. 

The Shapeshifter Fashion Show became the highlight of the festivities, and unlike anything the library has ever seen before. The show featured a line up of all Indigenous designers and models and ROCKED the VPL promenade.
The event created a space to fuse art, fashion, culture, music and entertainment together to highlight cultural diversity and promote a new path toward equality.

Hands up to the designers: Sho Sho Esquiro/ Nadine Spence/ OKA

 

  • RISE leader and Show Organizer, Joleen Mitton, wearing OKA

 Following the show, Rematriate: What To Wear In A Era of Matriation?” invited the whole community to take part in a cultural experience, exploring the depth of creativity amongst notable Indigenous designers, writers, researchers, traditional and contemporary artists, and advocates. Rematriate was a conversation with: Kelly Edzerza Bapty, Beau Dick, Kwiaahwah Jones, and Lisa Charelyboy to raise awareness about the appropriation of Indigenous Cultural Identities.

Nice work, Joleen, and the rest of the RISE Team who supported this event!

And thank you to the VPL for the use of this beautiful space!

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November 27, 2012: Responding to Inner City Youth at Risk of Suicide http://alivesociety.ca/2015/08/11/november-27-2012-responding-to-inner-city-youth-at-risk-of-suicide/ Tue, 11 Aug 2015 17:31:52 +0000 http://alivesociety.ca/alive/2015/08/11/november-27-2012-responding-to-inner-city-youth-at-risk-of-suicide/ Download this Press Release

November 27, 2012

Responding to Inner City Youth at Risk of Suicide

Late last September, a suicide pact was discovered among 30 young people in Vancouver’s Inner City. A coordinated crisis team intervened, admitting 24 to hospital for their own protection. Most of these youth were Aboriginal.

This was not an isolated incident. During the previous spring and summer, groups of young people – primarily 12 and 13 years old — had been drinking to blackout, with a number treated for alcohol overdose at Children’s Hospital.

The youth admitted to hospital in September were fully assessed and wellness plans were put in place. Upon release from hospital, most of the youth went back to drinking. Since then, a few have individually attempted suicide and some have become involved in violent events.

Our children are still very much at risk and we are dismayed at the tepid level of longterm response from those mandated by various systems to care for our youth. The fast approaching holiday season – a time known to increase risk of suicide — will only add to their vulnerability.

 

After over 30 forums and listing to our members, ALIVE and our community partners are calling for immediate implementation of a place-based Inner City youth strategy that coordinates resources and strategies – placing our children and families at the centre of planning and funding and calling to account all who fail to properly protect our children.
The current structure is clearly not working. Institutional partners seem to spend most of their time trying to avoid taking responsibility. These young people are drinking on school grounds, parks grounds, and increasingly indoors, yet there is little capacity for those in control of these areas to coordinate responses. Outreach response has been coordinated but work within a model that limits overall effectiveness. A recent local services team meeting chose to completely ignore this crisis to focus on what organizations in the area are doing well. Groups in the community that push for an immediate comprehensive response are met more with resistance than cooperation.

Meanwhile, our young people continue to drink and to place themselves in risky situations with older youth and young adults.

We also blame systemic racism for placing Inner City children, youth and families at risk. Perhaps with good intentions, BC government ministries have funded parallel Aboriginal systems and organizations for education, children and families, and soon for health in the urban setting. These types of programs have long been advocated to reflect cultural relevance for BC’s Aboriginal peoples.

However what has evolved are systems where Aboriginal peoples are pressured and often mandated to use Aboriginal-designated programs and organizations. Rather than offering choice, the government has instituted what is effectively an apartheid system. This is morally and ethically wrong, as well as infringing on our basic human rights.

This institutional racism manifests in various ways in urban environments. Most government funding is directed to Aboriginal authorities and service organizations, effectively rendering Aboriginal residents clients rather than full citizens. Aboriginal children are targeted as different at an early age. While immigrant children are systematically integrated into mainstream education, Aboriginal children are systematically separated. Research has shown that more Aboriginal children now live as government wards than were ever in residential schools. Many of our most at risk youth have been sidelined into the alternative school stream before even entering high school, placing them with much older teens.

The current situation must transform. All governments and contracted agencies must restructure how they deal with urban Aboriginal peoples. We are citizens, not clients. Programs must be community driven and targeted to comprehensively address local challenges. There must be accountability back to Aboriginal families and residents on how programs are delivered and the outcomes achieved. The streaming of our kids to alternate schools or to Aboriginal agencies outside their community of supports must end. Our children need a safe community, intensive support and stabilization to build social networks for success.

We need change now. The very lives of our children are at stake.

Scott Clark Executive Director, ALIVE clarkscott00@hotmail.com 604-363-0254

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Scott Clark on Global News Calling for Change at MCFD http://alivesociety.ca/2015/08/08/global-news-mcfd/ Sat, 08 Aug 2015 23:55:12 +0000 http://alivesociety.ca/alive/2015/08/08/global-news-mcfd/

“Two weeks after a judge issued a damning ruling against the Ministry of Children and Family Development, calls continue to come for the ministry to do more to help at risk children. Scott Clark, Executive Director of the Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society, and Judy McGuire, coordinator with the Inner City Safety Society, speak to BC1 about what social workers are dealing with on the front lines.”

Link to Global News Coverage

More like this from ALIVE:

 Press Releases 

Mother’s Panel on the MCFD

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May 14, 2015: It’s Time to Care About Our Children http://alivesociety.ca/2015/08/08/may-14-2015-it-s-time-to-care-about-our-children/ Sat, 08 Aug 2015 23:45:48 +0000 http://alivesociety.ca/alive/2015/08/08/may-14-2015-it-s-time-to-care-about-our-children/ Download this press release

For Immediate Release                       

May 14, 2015

 

It’s Time to Care About Our Children

 

Today B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth has released yet another report detailing the unnecessary and tragic death of a child. Sadly, this report once again chronicles the abject failure of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and its designated agencies and service partners, to provide protection to a child in need. There is nothing new here. These findings echo many other reports previously released by the Representative’s Office: When Talk Trumps Service, Lost in the Shadows, On Their Own, to name just a few.

Today we have been provided with a full investigation of how Paige, a young person in our community, died.  We are hearing of systems that failed to respond, ignored the lived reality of this child, and failed to embrace or explore the supports and options that could have provided a different outcome. This report documents that in the last years of Paige’s life these service systems dismissed attempts by relatives and community groups to change the trajectory the professionals were facilitating. Both official systems and collaborating service partners willfully ignored her downward spiral, passively documenting her descent. This failure ended with her death.

This tragedy strikes close to home. Paige was known and loved by many in this community. So for us there is anger, there is grieving, and there is horror at how this young girl’s life was lived. There is the guilt and self-questioning, wondering if we could have, should have done more.

 

She was a child for whom local family, residents, and organizations sought desperately and unsuccessfully to secure appropriate resources and a safety plan that would enable her to thrive. MCFD social workers and designated agencies thwarted these efforts at every turn. Despite family pleas, she was ultimately housed in the Downtown Eastside in Atira’s Imuoto Housing for Young Women. Advocates had protested that housing young women in this area was not safe. Their concerns were rejected and dismissed by the housing provider and professional supporters claiming to know better. Paige paid for that mistake with her life.

Some will try to portray Paige’s tragic death as a single instance, not evidence of systemic failure. That is not the case. For the past three years, residents and advocates from our community have been pressuring these same bureaucrats and professionals to respond to the needs of many other local young people equally at risk – youth regularly ending up in emergency wards, some near death — victims of rape, alcohol and drug abuse. A number have considered or even tried suicide; some have succeeded.

These heartbreaking circumstances have been documented and brought to the attention of the Ministry and service providers directly and through the press. We have argued clearly and forcefully that the system which is supposed to protect our children abandons those most in need. We have pleaded that they change the policies and practices which are seriously compromising the safety, well-being, and lives of these youth.

Yet after three years and numerous discussions with the leadership of the Ministry and delegated agencies, we have achieved few results and have failed to impact the system.  We have been unsuccessful in attracting genuine commitment from those in charge and their service partners to undertake meaningful actions in response to the unacceptable, devastating, and ongoing harms to our youth. We have been met with defensiveness, lip-service expressions of concern, buck-passing, and little change. Our children remain at risk.     

What we have is a failure to truly care.  

Our experiences echo those outlined by the Representative in this report. Her conclusions are chillingly accurate. This Ministry operates by budgets and benchmarks but disregards our children. Designated agencies and community organizations chase funding opportunities with no regard for those victimized by their so-called service provision. When called to account, they justify poor outcomes by blaming those in need for their complex problems and saying they need yet more money. Funders continue to throw money at treating symptoms with little thought for the real needs of those who will use such services due to lack of other options. These children deserve our protection. They are treated as an afterthought.  

Aboriginal children face particularly poor outcomes. They are streamed into an apartheid-like alternate service system set up for reasons of political correctness. In reaction to the family breakups generated by the residential school system, family reunification has become such a priority that children are kept with, or placed back with, clearly dysfunctional parents. Good intentions do not automatically translate into good care, particularly when little to no attention is paid to strengthening the capacities of the parents themselves.

The Child, Family and Community Services Act, under which the Ministry operates, clearly states that: “This Act must be interpreted and administered so that the safety and well-being of children are the paramount considerations”. What we have is a Ministry and system of vested interests in which child safety and well-being seems to be the last consideration. The Ministry’s professed good intentions are meaningless. Their actions continue to contribute to harm for our children.

We do not accept that the current system works in the best interests of our children. We do not accept that many of the designated agencies and service providers place our children’s interests ahead of their own. We reject the duplication and apartheid approach to current social service provision, procurement practices, and intervention initiatives. It is long past the time to look critically at this entire system — to start working toward collaboration, integration, and meaningful change. As Einstein is so often quoted as observing, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. 

We Need Change Now

The reality is that vulnerable children and youth face a combination of linked, compounding problems such as low income, social exclusion, school failure, poor housing, family breakdown, exploitation, and mental health issues (often due to past trauma). These challenges are aggravated by policies and practices that do little to meet the needs of our youth when they are most at risk. Some examples:

  • Most services are provided 8:30 am – 4:30 pm weekdays. Only minimal support is available evenings and weekends, which is when youth tend to be in crisis and likely to be transported to hospital.
  • Vulnerable youth, some as young as 16, and well as youth transitioning out of Ministry care, are still being routinely housed in the Downtown Eastside, an area notorious for drug-dealing, predators, and violence.
  • Confidentiality is being used as pretext for not passing on critical information relating to the safety, health and security of youth/children, which only compounds the lack of program/service coordination. Youth are lost in bureaucratic silos, or just lost due to gaps in sharing information or resources.
  • Safe House policies, such as those demanding young people be 72 hours ‘clean’ before they will be accepted, mean that those most vulnerable do not have access when they are most susceptible to being recruited into negative activities and groups — when they are most in need of a safe place to stay.
  • Our most vulnerable youth are too easily and too often isolated and segregated away from mainstream institutions – streamed into separate groups and alternate schools when they begin to have difficulties, instead of supports being provided to families and regular classrooms to help them remain included. Isolation from the mainstream tends to lead to further alienation, setting these youth up for predation and recruitment by older peers.
  • Young people are further isolated by relative poverty and by ethnicity – even facing cost barriers to participating in recreation and other activities at public institutions such as community centres.
  • Unconnected and segregated single program responses are used to address the complex problems presented by children and youth, while what is required are comprehensive solutions involving collaboration among multiple strategies and organizations to achieve collective impact. 

Too many of these children are being rescued by police, resuscitated by emergency responders, and stabilized by emergency personnel at local hospitals, only to be abandoned upon release – too often leaving hospital without support, supervision or follow-up. Many find their way back to the same predatory situation, with some even being readmitted to Emergency the same night due to repeat trauma, drinking, and/or drug abuse.

 

Even when identified and referred to appropriate mandated and contracted service providers, ineffective responses, and uncoordinated and irrelevant service styles too often result in these children continuing to remain involved in the same negative activities. Responses are not effective when services are incompatible with the help seeking patterns, and realities of the child’s behavior and environment. The lack of real, relevant interventions serves to entrench many of these children in this negative environment, increasingly under the control of violent predators or gangs – subject to ongoing exploitation. Outcomes can be horrendous. Too many of the Murdered and Missing Women were once children in care. Young people who become street-entrenched as teenagers tend to remain there for life.

 

The Ministry and designated agencies have one job – to safeguard our children. They have developed wonderful-sounding values and principles, manuals of good practice, and strategic plans. However actual policies and practices fall far short of exemplifying these ideals and too often actually increase risk for our youth.

It should not take years of advocacy, report after report, and children injured and dying before those responsible and working in the system stop defending the status quo and embrace change. We want and need Ministry and service agency leaders fighting to provide our children with the same attention and supports they would want for their own children.

Having core values, principles, and manuals of good practice alone will not get this job done. It will require something much bigger — it will require a change in leadership and in these systems. It will require real investment and a genuine capacity to CARE!!!!

A New Way of Working

In the October 9th 2014 Report, Not Fully Invested: A Follow-up Report on the Representative’s Past Recommendations to Help Vulnerable Children in BC, Ms. Turpel-Lafond lamented that Ministry and system leadership continued to largely ignore so many of the recommendations that would change the outcomes for children at risk. She went on to add: “Considering that the well-being of our most vulnerable children and youth is at stake, I expect more from government and I think most British Columbians do as well.

We agree. Our children – all children — deserve our best.

There tends to be a self-protective mentality that responds to criticisms by becoming defensive and painting a problem as an aberration. This is not the case and making statements about how much workers care and what good work they do does not change the fact that this system still fails too many children in need and that Ministry and agency leadership must assume responsibility for that failure.  

We are dealing with a current entrenched culture, with self-serving, alienating systems that have become more about operational ease than about providing care. Leadership remains invested in maintaining the status quo. Contracts to funded agencies are generally rolled over with little evaluation of actual outcomes and with virtually no accountability back to the people who use their services or to the community at large.

Yes, there are good workers, and it is the people in these systems who can make the difference: the person in the system who spends the extra 40 minutes to ensure that the kid on the phone needing a place to stay is safe regardless of the fact they are missing lunch break; or the nurse who doesn’t just make a referral to mental health services for a youth but takes the time to ensure they get to the appointment; the service provider who refuses to take money to house children in an area that will place them at risk; the professional who places their duty to protect children above accepting a partial, un-thought-through measure. As things stand, too often these competent, caring workers run into bureaucratic barriers that impede their efforts. In a caring system the capacity to go the extra mile would be rewarded.

The solution lies in adopting community, place-based strategies that place the child’s wellbeing at the centre of all considerations. Inconvenience must be borne by the system and the powers-that-be, not by the child. This model would be one of integrated systems as experienced by youth. It would support and uphold the rights of youth, and work to build the capacity of children and families. For children/youth and families, the model must incorporate:

  • Collaboration and cooperation to develop an approach that is responsive to youth in their place and time – one that is centred on the needs of the child/youth
  • The ability to react to (changing) child/youth needs in a continuing relationship, and to respond in a timely manner.
  • The system must be seen as accountable and consistent by youth/children themselves.

Ministry personnel, designated agencies, and funders must:

  • Build from local experience, research and strengths. Within these vulnerable communities, align a wide range of activities and partners (community, business, and service organizations) with current and new capacities to fulfill this core vision and strategy.
  • Measure outcomes and share learnings back into the strategy; adapt to opportunities and challenges. Deliver local (place-based) interventions with immediate impact while addressing the wider societal issues and the roots of violence.
  • Link to and work with influential champions to inform relevant public policy in order to ensure continuity and sustainability of these place-based responses.

When a strategy is created by community members for community members, the investment and drive is great, leading to successful outcomes. The model includes the need to collaborate with formal and informal community services in order to gather community input and gather accessible community resources that will help in making the strategy sustainable in the future. The success of this approach in producing positive outcomes for excluded children engaging in street activity lies in:

  • Utilizing the skill-sets of many professionals, and the existing resources in the community to  ensure a holistic, ecological approach to better understand the issues affecting the youth;
  • Building on existing social capital. Identifying informal and formal community resources, from family members to art studios, to best understand what resources are available;
  • Empowering everyone involved. By having high expectations for the success of the youth, families, communities, and the professionals involved, as well as recognizing and nurturing each person’s individuality; and
  • Applying flexible approaches, whether this be program hours, activities offered, services accessed, or cultural contexts.

The Capacity to CARE is critical if meaningful changes are to be made. When people become personally invested in caring for our children and are supported for that capacity to care, they can make a difference to individuals, to a community, and to those around them in the system. Whether it be the perceived or real limitations and shortcomings of systems, or lack of personal resources of a neighbor, it is amazing what can be done when someone is personally invested and cares — or at least cares enough to try.

We in the community are calling on Ministry leaders and on other critical, public, taxpayer-mandated service leadership to adopt a community-accountable, place-based youth strategy and to build the Capacity to CARE throughout the system they lead — through hiring practices, through valuing those in these systems who are trying to do the right thing, and through demonstrating commitment to the well-being of young people in their practices. This capacity should be reflected in the delivery and design of relevant responses and intervention and through place-based, collaborative, collective-impact strategic methods that see the civil society groups, residents, and families as partners.   

The Representative for Children and Youth has taken a courageous step in bringing to light the many failures that led to Paige’s death. Our thoughts are with Paige’s family who fought so hard to keep her safe. This tragedy should not have happened. It is within the power of leadership from the Ministry and designated agencies to ensure such a tragedy does not happen again. We ask them to accept their responsibilities to our children and to change the culture and priorities of this system from the ground up. We commit to working with them for the betterment of all. Let Paige’s legacy be a transformation which truly places safety and wellbeing at the heart of a child-centred system.

 

For further information, contact:

Scott Clark, Executive Director, Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society (ALIVE)

clarkscott00@hotmail.com, 604-417-0327

Ernie Crey, President, North West Indigenous Council (NWIC)

erniecrey@gmail.com, 604-819-7981

Judy McGuire, Coordinator, Inner City Safety Society

                         Board of Directors, Ray-Cam Community Association

judemcguire@telus.net, 604-889-8430

 

 

 

 

 

For Immediate Release                                                        May 14, 2015

It’s Time to Care About Our Children

 

Today B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth has released yet another report detailing the unnecessary and tragic death of a child. Sadly, this report once again chronicles the abject failure of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and its designated agencies and service partners, to provide protection to a child in need. There is nothing new here. These findings echo many other reports previously released by the Representative’s Office: When Talk Trumps Service, Lost in the Shadows, On Their Own, to name just a few.

Today we have been provided with a full investigation of how Paige, a young person in our community, died.  We are hearing of systems that failed to respond, ignored the lived reality of this child, and failed to embrace or explore the supports and options that could have provided a different outcome. This report documents that in the last years of Paige’s life these service systems dismissed attempts by relatives and community groups to change the trajectory the professionals were facilitating. Both official systems and collaborating service partners willfully ignored her downward spiral, passively documenting her descent. This failure ended with her death.

This tragedy strikes close to home. Paige was known and loved by many in this community. So for us there is anger, there is grieving, and there is horror at how this young girl’s life was lived. There is the guilt and self-questioning, wondering if we could have, should have done more.

She was a child for whom local family, residents, and organizations sought desperately and unsuccessfully to secure appropriate resources and a safety plan that would enable her to thrive. MCFD social workers and designated agencies thwarted these efforts at every turn. Despite family pleas, she was ultimately housed in the Downtown Eastside in Atira’s Imuoto Housing for Young Women. Advocates had protested that housing young women in this area was not safe. Their concerns were rejected and dismissed by the housing provider and professional supporters claiming to know better. Paige paid for that mistake with her life.

Some will try to portray Paige’s tragic death as a single instance, not evidence of systemic failure. That is not the case. For the past three years, residents and advocates from our community have been pressuring these same bureaucrats and professionals to respond to the needs of many other local young people equally at risk – youth regularly ending up in emergency wards, some near death — victims of rape, alcohol and drug abuse. A number have considered or even tried suicide; some have succeeded.

These heartbreaking circumstances have been documented and brought to the attention of the Ministry and service providers directly and through the press. We have argued clearly and forcefully that the system which is supposed to protect our children abandons those most in need. We have pleaded that they change the policies and practices which are seriously compromising the safety, well-being, and lives of these youth.


 

Yet after three years and numerous discussions with the leadership of the Ministry and delegated agencies, we have achieved few results and have failed to impact the system.  We have been unsuccessful in attracting genuine commitment from those in charge and their service partners to undertake meaningful actions in response to the unacceptable, devastating, and ongoing harms to our youth. We have been met with defensiveness, lip-service expressions of concern, buck-passing, and little change. Our children remain at risk.     

What we have is a failure to truly care.  

Our experiences echo those outlined by the Representative in this report. Her conclusions are chillingly accurate. This Ministry operates by budgets and benchmarks but disregards our children. Designated agencies and community organizations chase funding opportunities with no regard for those victimized by their so-called service provision. When called to account, they justify poor outcomes by blaming those in need for their complex problems and saying they need yet more money. Funders continue to throw money at treating symptoms with little thought for the real needs of those who will use such services due to lack of other options. These children deserve our protection. They are treated as an afterthought.  

Aboriginal children face particularly poor outcomes. They are streamed into an apartheid-like alternate service system set up for reasons of political correctness. In reaction to the family breakups generated by the residential school system, family reunification has become such a priority that children are kept with, or placed back with, clearly dysfunctional parents. Good intentions do not automatically translate into good care, particularly when little to no attention is paid to strengthening the capacities of the parents themselves.

The Child, Family and Community Services Act, under which the Ministry operates, clearly states that: “This Act must be interpreted and administered so that the safety and well-being of children are the paramount considerations”. What we have is a Ministry and system of vested interests in which child safety and well-being seems to be the last consideration. The Ministry’s professed good intentions are meaningless. Their actions continue to contribute to harm for our children.

We do not accept that the current system works in the best interests of our children. We do not accept that many of the designated agencies and service providers place our children’s interests ahead of their own. We reject the duplication and apartheid approach to current social service provision, procurement practices, and intervention initiatives. It is long past the time to look critically at this entire system — to start working toward collaboration, integration, and meaningful change. As Einstein is so often quoted as observing, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. 

We Need Change Now

The reality is that vulnerable children and youth face a combination of linked, compounding problems such as low income, social exclusion, school failure, poor housing, family breakdown, exploitation, and mental health issues (often due to past trauma). These challenges are aggravated by policies and practices that do little to meet the needs of our youth when they are most at risk. Some examples:

·               Most services are provided 8:30 am – 4:30 pm weekdays. Only minimal support is available evenings and weekends, which is when youth tend to be in crisis and likely to be transported to hospital.

·               Vulnerable youth, some as young as 16, and well as youth transitioning out of Ministry care, are still being routinely housed in the Downtown Eastside, an area notorious for drug-dealing, predators, and violence.

·               Confidentiality is being used as pretext for not passing on critical information relating to the safety, health and security of youth/children, which only compounds the lack of program/service coordination. Youth are lost in bureaucratic silos, or just lost due to gaps in sharing information or resources.

·               Safe House policies, such as those demanding young people be 72 hours ‘clean’ before they will be accepted, mean that those most vulnerable do not have access when they are most susceptible to being recruited into negative activities and groups — when they are most in need of a safe place to stay.

·               Our most vulnerable youth are too easily and too often isolated and segregated away from mainstream institutions – streamed into separate groups and alternate schools when they begin to have difficulties, instead of supports being provided to families and regular classrooms to help them remain included. Isolation from the mainstream tends to lead to further alienation, setting these youth up for predation and recruitment by older peers.

·               Young people are further isolated by relative poverty and by ethnicity – even facing cost barriers to participating in recreation and other activities at public institutions such as community centres.

·               Unconnected and segregated single program responses are used to address the complex problems presented by children and youth, while what is required are comprehensive solutions involving collaboration among multiple strategies and organizations to achieve collective impact. 

Too many of these children are being rescued by police, resuscitated by emergency responders, and stabilized by emergency personnel at local hospitals, only to be abandoned upon release – too often leaving hospital without support, supervision or follow-up. Many find their way back to the same predatory situation, with some even being readmitted to Emergency the same night due to repeat trauma, drinking, and/or drug abuse.

 

Even when identified and referred to appropriate mandated and contracted service providers, ineffective responses, and uncoordinated and irrelevant service styles too often result in these children continuing to remain involved in the same negative activities. Responses are not effective when services are incompatible with the help seeking patterns, and realities of the child’s behavior and environment. The lack of real, relevant interventions serves to entrench many of these children in this negative environment, increasingly under the control of violent predators or gangs – subject to ongoing exploitation. Outcomes can be horrendous. Too many of the Murdered and Missing Women were once children in care. Young people who become street-entrenched as teenagers tend to remain there for life.

 

The Ministry and designated agencies have one job – to safeguard our children. They have developed wonderful-sounding values and principles, manuals of good practice, and strategic plans. However actual policies and practices fall far short of exemplifying these ideals and too often actually increase risk for our youth.

It should not take years of advocacy, report after report, and children injured and dying before those responsible and working in the system stop defending the status quo and embrace change. We want and need Ministry and service agency leaders fighting to provide our children with the same attention and supports they would want for their own children.

Having core values, principles, and manuals of good practice alone will not get this job done. It will require something much bigger — it will require a change in leadership and in these systems. It will require real investment and a genuine capacity to CARE!!!!

A New Way of Working

In the October 9th 2014 Report, Not Fully Invested: A Follow-up Report on the Representative’s Past Recommendations to Help Vulnerable Children in BC, Ms. Turpel-Lafond lamented that Ministry and system leadership continued to largely ignore so many of the recommendations that would change the outcomes for children at risk. She went on to add: “Considering that the well-being of our most vulnerable children and youth is at stake, I expect more from government and I think most British Columbians do as well.

We agree. Our children – all children — deserve our best.

There tends to be a self-protective mentality that responds to criticisms by becoming defensive and painting a problem as an aberration. This is not the case and making statements about how much workers care and what good work they do does not change the fact that this system still fails too many children in need and that Ministry and agency leadership must assume responsibility for that failure.  

We are dealing with a current entrenched culture, with self-serving, alienating systems that have become more about operational ease than about providing care. Leadership remains invested in maintaining the status quo. Contracts to funded agencies are generally rolled over with little evaluation of actual outcomes and with virtually no accountability back to the people who use their services or to the community at large.

Yes, there are good workers, and it is the people in these systems who can make the difference: the person in the system who spends the extra 40 minutes to ensure that the kid on the phone needing a place to stay is safe regardless of the fact they are missing lunch break; or the nurse who doesn’t just make a referral to mental health services for a youth but takes the time to ensure they get to the appointment; the service provider who refuses to take money to house children in an area that will place them at risk; the professional who places their duty to protect children above accepting a partial, un-thought-through measure. As things stand, too often these competent, caring workers run into bureaucratic barriers that impede their efforts. In a caring system the capacity to go the extra mile would be rewarded.

The solution lies in adopting community, place-based strategies that place the child’s wellbeing at the centre of all considerations. Inconvenience must be borne by the system and the powers-that-be, not by the child. This model would be one of integrated systems as experienced by youth. It would support and uphold the rights of youth, and work to build the capacity of children and families. For children/youth and families, the model must incorporate:

·               Collaboration and cooperation to develop an approach that is responsive to youth in their place and time – one that is centred on the needs of the child/youth

·               The ability to react to (changing) child/youth needs in a continuing relationship, and to respond in a timely manner.

·               The system must be seen as accountable and consistent by youth/children themselves.

Ministry personnel, designated agencies, and funders must:

·               Build from local experience, research and strengths. Within these vulnerable communities, align a wide range of activities and partners (community, business, and service organizations) with current and new capacities to fulfill this core vision and strategy.

·               Measure outcomes and share learnings back into the strategy; adapt to opportunities and challenges. Deliver local (place-based) interventions with immediate impact while addressing the wider societal issues and the roots of violence.

·               Link to and work with influential champions to inform relevant public policy in order to ensure continuity and sustainability of these place-based responses.

When a strategy is created by community members for community members, the investment and drive is great, leading to successful outcomes. The model includes the need to collaborate with formal and informal community services in order to gather community input and gather accessible community resources that will help in making the strategy sustainable in the future. The success of this approach in producing positive outcomes for excluded children engaging in street activity lies in:

·               Utilizing the skill-sets of many professionals, and the existing resources in the community to  ensure a holistic, ecological approach to better understand the issues affecting the youth;

·               Building on existing social capital. Identifying informal and formal community resources, from family members to art studios, to best understand what resources are available;

·               Empowering everyone involved. By having high expectations for the success of the youth, families, communities, and the professionals involved, as well as recognizing and nurturing each person’s individuality; and

·               Applying flexible approaches, whether this be program hours, activities offered, services accessed, or cultural contexts.

The Capacity to CARE is critical if meaningful changes are to be made. When people become personally invested in caring for our children and are supported for that capacity to care, they can make a difference to individuals, to a community, and to those around them in the system. Whether it be the perceived or real limitations and shortcomings of systems, or lack of personal resources of a neighbor, it is amazing what can be done when someone is personally invested and cares — or at least cares enough to try.

We in the community are calling on Ministry leaders and on other critical, public, taxpayer-mandated service leadership to adopt a community-accountable, place-based youth strategy and to build the Capacity to CARE throughout the system they lead — through hiring practices, through valuing those in these systems who are trying to do the right thing, and through demonstrating commitment to the well-being of young people in their practices. This capacity should be reflected in the delivery and design of relevant responses and intervention and through place-based, collaborative, collective-impact strategic methods that see the civil society groups, residents, and families as partners.   

The Representative for Children and Youth has taken a courageous step in bringing to light the many failures that led to Paige’s death. Our thoughts are with Paige’s family who fought so hard to keep her safe. This tragedy should not have happened. It is within the power of leadership from the Ministry and designated agencies to ensure such a tragedy does not happen again. We ask them to accept their responsibilities to our children and to change the culture and priorities of this system from the ground up. We commit to working with them for the betterment of all. Let Paige’s legacy be a transformation which truly places safety and wellbeing at the heart of a child-centred system.

 

For further information, contact:

Scott Clark, Executive Director, Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society (ALIVE)

clarkscott00@hotmail.com, 604-417-0327

Ernie Crey, President, North West Indigenous Council (NWIC)

erniecrey@gmail.com, 604-819-7981

Judy McGuire, Coordinator, Inner City Safety Society

                         Board of Directors, Ray-Cam Community Association

judemcguire@telus.net, 604-889-8430

 

 

 

 

 

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July 16, 2015: MCFD Continues to Endanger Our Children http://alivesociety.ca/2015/08/08/mcfd-july-16-2015-continues-to-endanger-our-children/ Sat, 08 Aug 2015 23:02:06 +0000 http://alivesociety.ca/alive/2015/08/08/mcfd-july-16-2015-continues-to-endanger-our-children/  Download this press release

For Immediate Release

    July 16, 2015                 

 

MCFD Continues to Endanger Our Children

We Need Change now!

How many children have to be damaged or die before the BC government admits that the Ministry of Children and Family Development is irretrievably broken? Once again dangerous practices within the Ministry are being brought to light. And once again, the Ministry is failing to act. Children in British Columbia continue to be placed at risk by the very Ministry legally responsible for their safety.  When are we as adults going to stand up and demand an end to the Ministry’s reckless disregard of the obligation they hold on behalf of citizens of this province to protect our children?

In a blistering judgement from the BC Supreme Court, Judge Paul Walker has concluded that the Director of Child Protection and certain Ministry social workers “acted well outside of their statutory mandate and the duty to protect children”, citing “intentional misconduct, bad faith, reckless disregard for their obligation to protect children, breach of the applicable standard of care to unreasonably supporting the custodial interests of the children’s father even if it meant he sexually abused them.”  

In devastating detail, Judge Walker delineates actions which separated four children from their devoted and determined mother while trying to place them in the permanent care of a sexually abusive father. The mother’s reports of the abuse went uninvestigated while she was officially labelled as mentally unstable. The Director, Supervisor, and social workers omitted and misrepresented facts in a report to Provincial Court. Sexual abuse of the children continued when Ministry staff allowed the father unsupervised access to the children, defying a court order forbidding private access. 

For the past three years, residents and advocates from our community have been pressuring these same bureaucrats and professionals to respond to the needs of local children equally at risk. Their heartbreaking circumstances have been documented and brought to the attention of the Ministry and service providers directly and through the press – youth regularly ending up in emergency wards, some near death — victims of rape, alcohol and drug abuse. A number have considered or even tried suicide; some have succeeded.

We have pleaded with the Ministry to change the policies and practices which are seriously compromising the safety, well-being, and lives of these youth.

 

Judge Walker’s scathing judgement comes mere weeks after the May 14th release of the ‘Paige Report’ by BC’s Representative for Children and Youth, which detailed the unnecessary and tragic death of a local young women after years of Ministry neglect. That report documented in profound detail years of systems that failed to respond, ignored the lived reality of this child, and failed to embrace or explore the supports and options that could have provided a different outcome. Both official systems and collaborating service partners willfully ignored her downward spiral, passively documenting her descent. This failure ended with her death.

The ‘Paige Report’ was only the latest of many released by the Representative’s Office outlining serious failures by the Ministry to meet its statutory obligations to protect children. Repeated commitments to do better have resulted in very little change. To date the Ministry has not even accepted or acted on the substantial recommendations made in the ‘Paige Report’, with the exception of announcing an intention to eventually set up a Rapid Response Team. Announcements chance nothing. What our children need is action.

In fact The Ministry appears to have learned nothing and changed nothing. They remain accountable to no one as they continue to place our children at risk.

A search of the BC Government Directory shows that the initial investigating social worker identified by Judge Walker in this Supreme Court case is now an Investigator with the Teacher Regulation Branch. The Ministry’s Team Leader, who is named in the judgement as having willfully and knowingly misrepresented facts to the Director and through her to the Court, and who clearly breached his primary duty of protecting the children, not only remained as area Team Leader for Protection within the Ministry but is rumoured to have recently been promoted.

.We Need Change Now

The Ministry and designated agencies have one job – to safeguard our children. It should not take years of advocacy, report after report, and children abused, injured, and dying before those responsible and working in the system stop defending the status quo and embrace change.

We are dealing with an entrenched culture, with self-serving, alienating systems that have become more about operational ease than about providing care. Leadership remains invested in maintaining the status quo.

How many more of these cases must go to court before the Ministry responds? Too many children being harmed and even dying due to Ministry actions that many would deem at best recklessly negligent, indifferent, incompetent, abusive, even malicious as in this recent case. The state continues to violate the legislated requirement to act in the child’s best interest, to ignore international obligations to protect the rights of each child, and to abdicate its duty to protect. There are too many examples where those being harmed have no voice or capacity to bring their suffering forward into the judicial system, and so the violence and harm continue unabated.

This is within the power of leadership from the Government and the Ministry to bring about needed change. It is long past time for them to accept their responsibilities to our children and to change the culture and priorities of this system from the ground up.

When the Ministry set up to protect our children is itself is being perceived and identified by the courts as the abuser, none of our children are safe.

 For further information, contact:

Scott Clark, Executive Director, Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society (ALIVE)

clarkscott00@hotmail.com, 604-417-0327

Judy McGuire, Coordinator, Inner City Safety Society

judemcguire@telus.net, 604-889-8430

 

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May 1, 2014: The Children of Forgotten Promises http://alivesociety.ca/2015/08/08/may-1-2014-the-children-of-forgotten-promises/ Sat, 08 Aug 2015 21:55:25 +0000 http://alivesociety.ca/alive/2015/08/08/may-1-2014-the-children-of-forgotten-promises/ Download this press release

 

The Children of Forgotten Promises

For Immediate Release: May 1, 2014

In response to the BC Representative for Children & Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s report, “On Their Own”, April 2014, Aboriginal Life In Vancouver Enhancement Society’s president, Ernie Crey, has praised the report as practical and says the report’s recommendations, if adopted, would help restore dignity and choice is supporting B.C.’s most vulnerable youth.”Making a healthy transition into adulthood, from government care, especially for urban Aboriginal youth here in this province’s largest city is something we should all get behind”. “The creation of a Youth Secretariat is long overdue and would help to align youth funding for better outcomes. And being accountable back to youth by using reliable research and measurements for success will benefit all British Columbians, as we support youth in government care”. And Crey believes we all have a responsibility to assist youth with housing, and encourage healthy relationships, educational plans, life skills, enhanced identity, and emotional well-being. He says that actively engaging youth in developing their own plans to independence is essential.

ALIVE is convinced that developing a province-wide strategy for youth in government care must begin by bringing together First Nations, federal and provincial, municipal and foundation funding to address the issues as identified in BC Representative for Children & Youth report. Current government policies only serve to encourage a model of top down services and competition for clients which must be replaced with a strategy that fosters cooperation and coordination, and empowers Aboriginal people to take their rightful place in Vancouver’s 24 communities. Crey says that, “While our youth are resilient, we still owe it to them to help them, and to honour our community-wide responsibility to ensure they enjoy equality of opportunity. The days of adopting government funding regimes and policies which pipeline our kids to the Downtown Eastside must end”.

ALIVE strongly recommends that the Ministry act immediately to implement the full recommendations of the “On Our Own” report along with taking immediate action on the recommendations from the Representative’s earlier “When Talk Trumped Service” and “Lost in the Shadows” reports. ALIVE is adamant that each community has strengths to build on, and the Ministry For Children & Family Development has the potential, through a Youth Secretariat, to create a a climate of collaboration firmly rooted in tried and true measures for success. The ultimate goal is to help youth move from government wardship to full adult independence.

For more information, please contact ALIVE President, Ernie Crey, at: 1-604-819-7981 or ALIVE’s Executive Director, Scott Clark, at: 1-604-499-9738

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Aug 4, 2015: MCFD Sidesteps Accountability We Need Action Now! http://alivesociety.ca/2015/08/08/mcfd-sidesteps-accountability-we-need-action-now/ Sat, 08 Aug 2015 20:42:46 +0000 http://alivesociety.ca/alive/2015/08/08/mcfd-sidesteps-accountability-we-need-action-now/  Download this press release

 For Immediate Release                                                       

August 4, 2015

MCFD Sidesteps Accountability

  We Need Action Now!

Approximately two weeks after Judge Paul Walker issued a blistering judgement citing the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s Director of Child Protection and certain Ministry social workers for “intentional misconduct, bad faith, reckless disregard for their obligation to protect children, breach of the applicable standard of care” — and three years after Judge Walker issued an initial judgement in this case — the MCFD Minister, Stephanie Cadiuex, has decided that an investigation is in order.

Ignoring the fact that the province already employs a fully independent, appropriately mandated investigator: BC’s Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the Minister has decided to bring back retired bureaucrat Bob Plecas to lead what can only be called a half-hearted attempt to divert attention from their culpability and placate the political firestorm that has arisen from the publication of Judge Walker’s July 14th 2015 judgement.

Revictimizing the Victim

Vancouver Sun reporter Ian Mulgrew has now made public the fact that the Ministry is continuing to harass the family exonerated by Judge Walker – once again interviewing the children and seeking home visits. No Ministry support has been offered to the family and they have been forced in recent months to rely on food banks.

 

Once again Ministry staff seem to be blaming the victim. Such actions appear to be malicious and retribution against a mother who courageously fought for her children. The father proven to have sexually abused his children remains at liberty and has not been charged.

The Ministry has not even had the common decency to apologize for the damage done to this family. 

Ministry Accountability

As for the Ministry social workers named in the court case, they have never been called to account for the reckless endangerment of the four abused children. Citing standard and prudent human resource practice, the Ministry is assigning staff directly impacted by the review to different duties. They will then undertake a human resource review if “the outcome of the independent review indicates significant concerns with staff actions.” Disciplinary actions will only be contemplated – contemplated?? – after completion of the human resource review.

A judge from the BC Supreme Court has cited the Director and certain Ministry social workers for failing in their legal responsibilities, with their actions (including defying a court order) directly responsible for delivering these children into a situation where they were then abused. If ever dismissal for cause was justified, this is such a case.

Why is the Ministry charged with protecting BC’s children instead choosing to protect those already legally judged responsible for the abuse of children in their custody?

How Can There Be Any Confidence in This Ministry?

The appalling facts established in Judge Walker’s decision — the tragic facts that led to the death of Paige, an Aboriginal young woman, in the Downtown Eastside — the distressing facts established by the Representative’s office in report after report – none are in dispute. Recommendations for systemic change have been offered by the Representative time and again, yet the government continues to act on very few. The status quo remains intact.

The Representative’s calls for action are echoed and supported by all of our partner organizations, by the Northwest Indigenous Council, by the First Nations Health Authority, by the BC First Nations Summit, by the Assembly of First Nations, and by the City of Vancouver, among many others – and most importantly by many families throughout the province.

We are angry at the bureaucratic complacency that resists change and sidesteps accountability. We are incredibly saddened by the tragic outcomes that result for too many of our children, youth, and families.

It’s Time for Action!

A magnificent lion is killed in Africa and a Twitter campaign leads to immediate systemic change. The person responsible is being charged. A dog is kicked on camera in an elevator and the person responsible is immediately fired from a high-paying job.

Children suffer and die in Ministry care and the government makes excuses. Children are sexually abused due to wilful negligence by Ministry staff. The family is devastated. The staff face no consequences.

The Ministry and designated agencies have one job – to safeguard our children. It is time that they cared enough to actually do that job – to stop talking and change their practices.

The time for action is now!!

 

For further information, contact:

Scott Clark, Executive Director, Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society (ALIVE)

clarkscott00@hotmail.com, 604-417-0327

Judy McGuire, Coordinator, Inner City Safety Society

judemcguire@telus.net, 604-889-8430

 

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