Open letter to province re: ‘Paige’s Story’

Children and Youth’s report “Paige’s Story: Abuse, Indifference, and a Young Life Discarded

Dear Premier Clark and Minister Cadieux;

We are writing with respect to the Government response from October 19, 2015, to the Representative for Children and Youth’s report “Paige’s Story: Abuse, Indifference, and a Young Life Discarded.”

As you are aware, we fully support the findings of the Representative.  We were deeply saddened and angered upon learning the tragic story of Paige’s short life, including the staggeringly high number of foster homes she was placed in, the chronic lack of adequate support from provincial workers, and her untimely death a few weeks after she aged out of care.

Paige’s story demonstrates that the system of care in B.C. is broken due to the professional indifference fostered by the ingrained and institutionalized racism that discounts the value of some children’s lives due to their ancestry.

We are encouraged that the Province accepted the recommendations that the Representative for Children and Youth made in her report; however, we are extremely concerned that there is a complete lack of Aboriginal lens in the action plan, including the youth map.  Going forward, we recommend the following actions, undertaken with an explicit Aboriginal lens:

• Support legislation to extend the age of children eligible for foster care to 24 – like other provinces.

• Transition plans with youth 16 years and older who are at high risk of becoming street entrenched. Transition plans must include all the service providers identified as necessary to have the needs of the youth met.

• Amendments to the Child, Family and Community Services Act to support case reviews of fatalities of young people up to the age of 24 who aged out of care at 19 years.

• Properly resourced rapid response team with adequate staff for 24/7 access for high risk youth who live in or frequent the Downtown Eastside.

• Annual public reporting of the number of reported abuse, neglect and maltreatment of Aboriginal girls and young women – by age, region, and numbers.

• Trauma informed, culturally informed treatment centres for high risk aboriginal youth in addition to specialized residential services for Aboriginal youth experiencing not only trauma but also confronted with psychiatric and behavioural issues.  Such services and programs will be necessary in order to address the systemic issues that Aboriginal youth may face, and provide support in moving forward.

• Continued focus on safety and permanency with an emphasis on kinship/extended family care that is reinforced with supports in housing, therapeutic supports including for special needs, and with school connectedness.

We continue urging you to review and address the larger systemic issues as well as ensure that appropriate policy and practice directives are in place regarding children in care, such as placement in hotels.

As you are aware, the RCMP has been asked to investigate if charges are to be laid with respect to provincial workers breaching their responsibilities under the Child, Family and Community Services Act in their treatment of Paige.  We expect that you will fully cooperate with any investigation, and ensure complete transparency to the public about any findings.

We look forward to your response.

First Nations Leadership Council

On behalf of the First Nations Summit: Grand Chief Edward John Robert Phillips ,  Cheryl Casimer

On behalf of the Union Of BC Indian Chiefs: Grand Chief Stewart Phillip  Chief Bob Chamberlin  Kukpi7 Judy Wilson

On behalf of the BC Assembly Of First Nations: Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson

CC:      Honourable John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Representative for Children and Youth Cindy Blackstock, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. Directors Forum: First Nations Health Council