The opposition is calling out the Sask Party and expressing concern over the high rate of Indigenous children in the child welfare system.
NDP Deputy Leader Carla Beck and First Nations and Mé tis Relations critic Buckley Belanger both called for the government to address their concerns.
“The Sask Party has dropped the ball on addressing the needs of Indigenous children,” Beck said. “Instead of making the changes that are needed to protect vulnerable children in care, they have failed to deliver on the comprehensive reform they promised back in 2010.”
According to a press release issued by the NDP, between 2013 and 2017 the number of children in care rose from 4,492 to 5,212. In the same period of time the number of Indigenous children in the system increased five per cent. The number of Indigenous children who died in the child welfare system rose from 62 per cent to 79 per cent.
“We can’t afford to sit back and watch as the next generation suffers,” Belanger said. “These numbers are going in the wrong direction and now is the time to engage with First Nations and Métis communities to bring the change that is needed."
The opposition is calling on the Sask Party to follow in the footsteps of other provinces and conduct a comprehensive review of child welfare legislation.
Belanger and Beck also called for the creation of a provincial advocate for Indigenous children and the creation of more supports for vulnerable families and prevention programs to keep children with their families and in their communities.
With other provinces reviewing and updating their child welfare legislation, Beck said children in Saskatchewan are falling behind.
“Most importantly, kids in our province aren’t getting the chance for the best start possible, I think we can do better for children in the province, and I think, really, we need to do better,” Beck said.
Sask Party responds to opposition's calls
Paul Merriman, the minister responsible for Social Services, issued a prepared statement following the NDP’s criticism.
Merriman noted the ministry’s main focus has always, and will always be the children of Saskatchewan, and they’re working with stakeholders across Saskatchewan to improve health and well-being of those children.
“One of the major drivers of change to our child welfare system here in Saskatchewan has been addressing the long-standing overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care,” Merriman’s statement read. “We have made significant strides in how we support Indigenous families to stay together, but the percentage of Indigenous children in care remains high, as is the case across Canada.”
Merriman noted the government currently has agreements with 17 Indigenous Child and Family Service agencies in the province, who are mandated to deliver child welfare services on-reserve and three agencies mandated to deliver services to off-reserve Indigenous people.
The minister re-affirmed the government’s commitment to reducing the number of interventions while reducing the likelihood of “continued involvement with the system,” and building capacity with extended family units.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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