A story of state-sponsored misery

David Koroma, News Columnist

david koroma

Child and Family Services (CFS) is our massive, multi-million dollar foster care system, and it is in desperate need of reform.

On Sept. 1,Manitoba’s First Nations family advocate, Cora Morgan, spoke out against the fact that our province is seizing an average of one newborn a day without much regard for the child’s or family’s well-being.

A week later, a Winnipeg Police Service report stated four out of five missing children in Manitoba are wards of CFS.

Our province has a foster care problem. It’s not new, and it’s only getting worse.

The inter-generational effects of the residential schools tragedy have been well documented — most notably in this year’s report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Of the commission’s 94 recommendations, the first five deal with reducing the amount of aboriginal children in foster care.

Looking at the astonishing number of roughly 11,000 children in CFS care — 10,000 of them aboriginal — it would be naive to assume the two issues aren’t connected.

Morgan spoke about her experience in a Winnipeg hospital witnessing an 18-year-old mother having her three-day-old son ripped from her hands by CFS workers. According to Morgan, their reasoning was that the young mother had been a ward of CFS — so the cycle continues.

Beyond these seemingly arbitrary seizures, the care that these children receive is lacking. There isn’t a family-first policy as other jurisdictions have, so family members have little recourse once CFS takes a child.

In Manitoba, an appalling number of children die while in foster care, and others go missing. Too many are holed up in hotels, like Tina Fontaine, who ran away from one before her tragic death.

These are issues the Winnipeg Police Service continue to grapple with.

When it comes to political parties, however, there’s very little they’ll do to actually address this pressing social problem.

When this issue pops up in the media — either because of another dead child or shocking statistic — our Manitoba government says how much they care, then tells us how much more money they’re investing into CFS to deal with the problem.

But CFS is the problem.

Seizing an alarming number of aboriginal children is the problem.

The same state that forced aboriginal students into abusive schools is now apprehending aboriginal children at a rate that far exceeds the number forced into those horrible institutions decades ago.

The question is: what are we, as Manitobans, going to do to challenge this shameful status quo?


David Koroma has experience working in government and political communications. He is interested in the role of citizens have in creating positive changes in Canada and abroad. Follow David on Twitter @D_A_Koroma.