AUGUST 18, 2012

I look forward to careful consideration and analysis of the important issues raised by this complaint.

Aboriginal children, including First Nations children on reserve, are severely over-represented in our child welfare systems across Canada. In some provinces, almost 80 per cent of the children in care are Aboriginal children. If there are systemic inequalities in access to services, it is abundantly clear that the impact falls on a large number of highly vulnerable children. These children are also over-represented in our youth justice system, they typically live in poverty, they have poor outcomes in school, and their health is compromised compared to their mainstream peers.

The complaint will now go forward to be heard by the Human Rights Tribunal. Alternatively, with the safety and well-being of children as the only focus, the parties can sit down and find some merit in each other’s arguments and positions, at least enough to begin an urgent and genuine dialogue about how to improve the lives of aboriginal children and families. This must include an independent and factual review of funding.

I am concerned about the cost, in both time and money, of depending on a complicated process of litigation that may take years to conclude. That means missed opportunities for the many children who are growing up today. We must match the urgency of our efforts to the pressing needs of these children, and we must do better for them.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth