Indigenous reproductive health series explores challenges and solutions

At the end of September 2020, the IndigiNews team was horrified by the preventable death of Indigenous mother, Joyce Echaquan. Echaquan was an Atikamekw woman and mother of seven who livestreamed her final moments before she died at the Centre Hospitalier de Lanaudiere in Joliette, QC. As she called for help, hospital staff taunted her with racist remarks.

We came together in our storytelling lodge and decided to focus on Indigenous women’s health, and more specifically, Indigenous women’s reproductive health. 

This prompted IndigiNews to file a Freedom of Information request to the B.C. government about a practice known as “birth alerts.” A birth alert, or hospital alert, is an order that social workers give to hospital staff, directing them to notify social workers as soon as a baby is born. 

Our investigation revealed that months prior to calling an end to the practice of birth alerts in B.C., the Ministry of Children and Family Development was informed by B.C.’s Attorney General that birth alerts are “illegal and unconstitutional.”

This revelation could have major implications for families who have been impacted by birth alerts across the country.

Birth alerts — done without the consent or knowledge of the parents being targeted — often result in apprehension of the newborn. This controversial practice primarily targets Indigenous families and has been stopped in several regions including British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, but elsewhere in Canada, such as in Québec, these alerts are still being used.

IndigiNews storytellers are watching MCFD closely as our birth alerts coverage in “B.C.” continues.

IndigiNews will continue our critical coverage of how Indigenous mothers are treated within the child welfare and health spaces in “B.C.”

Help us raise $25,000 to get justice for Indigenous families who have lost their children

We just want to know what happened to our Indigenous children — and we’re continuing to fight for answers. On June 12 and 13, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is taking B.C’s Information and Privacy Commissioner and IndigiNews to the B.C Supreme Court. Why? To keep redacted documents from our storytellers. What is MCFD fighting so hard to hide?

We want answers. Will you pitch in so we can continue to hold colonial institutions accountable?

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