Investigation in horrific abuse case must be Indigenous-led, child welfare leaders tell ‘B.C.’

ICFS Directors have penned a letter to David Eby and Mitzi Dean requesting immediate reform in the wake of 11-year-old’s death in foster ‘care’
MCFD Minister Mitzi Dean during an event in April. Photo: Province of B.C.

Content warning: This story contains details about the child “welfare” system that many will find distressing or triggering. Please look after your spirit and read with care.

Indigenous child welfare leaders are calling on the province to ensure any investigation into the death or abuse of a First Nations, Métis or Inuit child in “care” is led or co-led by Indigenous people. 

The Indigenous Child and Family Services (ICFS) Directors have penned an open letter to Premier David Eby and Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) Minister Mitzi Dean — setting out a list of five recommendations for “immediate measures” they say must be taken in the wake of a horrific abuse case involving two Indigenous children in “Lake Errock.”

Two foster parents, whose identities are protected under a publication ban, have been charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault in the case after one of the children, an 11-year-old boy, died from his injuries.

Meanwhile, MCFD workers reportedly did not check in on the children for seven months — either in-person or virtually — before the death occurred.

In a letter released Monday, Mary Teegee (Maaxswxw Gibuu) of the ICFS Directors writes that this tragic incident “must move us all to immediate action.”

“As Indigenous people, we have worked very hard to redress monumental wrongs against our children. Wrongs that have caused deep trauma and harm that will reverberate for generations to come,” writes Teegee.

“Our traditional ways of kinship and family strengths provide a pathway forward.”

‘The remaining steps must be completed urgently’

ICFS Directors, also known as the Our Children Our Way Society, includes representatives from all 24 Delegated Aboriginal Agencies in “B.C.” 

Together, they are calling for immediate reform to the child welfare system, including for an Indigenous advisory committee to guide the investigation into the Lake Errock case being undertaken by the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY) “and any other investigation into the abuse and murder of our Indigenous children,” writes Teegee.

“Additional investigations, such as a coroner’s inquest, are likely.”

The directors are also asking for more support for nations resuming child welfare jurisdiction, higher standards for social workers and funding equality for Indigenous families in the system. Finally, they are calling for the establishment of an Indigenous Child Welfare Director, something the organization has previously pushed for.

“The legislative framework for an Indigenous Director of Child Welfare is in place,” Teegee writes. “The remaining steps must be completed urgently so that the first Indigenous Director can begin the work as soon as possible.”

Currently, the minister for MCFD appoints a Provincial Director of Child Welfare as the ministry’s “statutory officer.” This role has the legislative power to direct child welfare policy, according to a spokesperson. 

‘They were failed at every level’

Now that a criminal investigation into the Errock Lake case is complete, the RCY is conducting an independent investigation. 

In a statement released by the current RCY, Jennifer Charlesworth, she says that the horrific nature of the Lake Errock case “has frankly brought me to my knees.”

“In 46 years of practice in helping children and youth, this is one of the most egregious situations I have ever seen,” she says.

A news release from RCY says Charlesworth intends to consult the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) and others “about how to proceed with the investigation, particularly considering the wellbeing and privacy of the surviving children who have been affected.”

“I will do everything in my power as Representative to ensure that we learn what happened and — most significantly — what needs to be done to ensure that the system is transformed so that this does not happen to any child, anywhere in this province, again,” she says.

Meanwhile, Minister Dean acknowledges that the children in the case were “failed at every level” and that the province’s child welfare system is “broken.” 

Last month, there were calls for Dean to resign after the case came to light, with the FNLC stating she has demonstrated an “ongoing lack of accountability.”

However, Dean has remained in her role, saying her ministry remains focused on protecting children and youth.

“In partnership with First Nations leadership and Indigenous partners,” Dean says in a statement, “we are determined to continue making the systemic changes that are needed to support nations in exercising their inherent jurisdiction to provide their own services for their children and youth.”


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