B.C. Liberals must show leadership following report on services for Aboriginal children and youth

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VICTORIA — A report from B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth shows the Liberal government has failed to show leadership or bring the focus needed to fulfill one of the most important responsibilities of government – providing services for Aboriginal children and youth, say B.C.’s New Democrats.

“This report is yet another example of what we have seen over and over again from this government: big promises, but no clear direction, and ultimately no real change for children and youth,” said New Democrat children and family development critic Carole James. “And it shows that over the last 12 years, the government has spent time, energy, and resources promoting what they called change at the expense of children and families that needed their help.”

The report highlights the Liberal government’s spending of roughly $66 million on ever-changing organizational direction in the Ministry of Children and Family Development while basic services for Aboriginal children and families have foundered.

“Given the number of Aboriginal children in care, and their expected outcomes in this system, this critical issue should be at the top of the government’s agenda, and the subject of a clear plan for improvement. But the reality is just the opposite,” said James.

In 2001 Christy Clark co-authored the Liberal platform that promised “to stop the endless bureaucratic restructuring that has drained resources from children and family services.”

“Twelve years later, the government has not only failed to keep this promise, it has done the opposite; reorganization and restructuring initiatives have eaten up money that should have improved services for Aboriginal children and youth, improvements the government promised never arrived,” said James.

James is calling on the government to accept the serious issues this report has brought to light and focus on concrete steps to improve services for Aboriginal children and their families.

Governance of aboriginal child and family services is complex, and crosses over all levels of government. It requires a commitment to a true partnership with aboriginal communities, with clear lines of accountability and a focus on children and youth.

“Whether youth mental health, residential care, or domestic violence, this government is quick to say they agree with recommendations from the Representative” said James. “But the plans and resources never arrive. It is long past time for the premier to stand up for children and put in place immediate plans for improving support. Children deserve that attention and focus.”