On Family Day, a time when families typically come together, members of the Siksika Nation rallied against the Alberta government in an effort to bring two indigenous children home.
Chief Joseph Weasel Child and other representatives from several nations referred to a child and family case currently before the provincial court of Alberta.Weasel Child said two children were deliberately placed in a non-Indigenous home without approval from the band.“How can this happen to two children?” Chief Weasel Child said. “They’re being forcefully taken, they’re being denied their culture, their language, contact with their parents, families, their people.”
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Siksika Nation wants clearer policies and a change in the justice system for Indigenous foster children.Deanna Ledoux, an appointed First Nations child advocate in this case, says the option for the children to stay with relatives was not explored.“When there is family that children belong to, these children belong to two nations. It’s not like they’re orphaned or they’re nobody’s children, these children have family that want them,” Ledoux said.
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“The issue is that we have a set of foster parents that didn’t agree with the permanency plan and have taken this particular file out of the First Nation’s jurisdiction by giving it to family law.“I wouldn’t say that policies haven’t been broken. There hasn’t been cooperation from the ministry in terms of providing the nation of Saskatchewan the information that I needed. I can see that just the fact that this is at a trial, there’s ministerial errors that need to be addressed,” Ledoux said.
Aaron Manton, press secretary for the Ministry of Children’s Services, said in a statement to Global News on Tuesday that the “government is committed to reconcilliation and our ministry is committed to working with Indigenous leaders and communities to address root causes of why families come into care in the first place.”
Manton said that while he couldn’t go into detail in the interest of childrens’ privacy, he said it was “important to note that the courts have the final say in many of these decisions.”
“As we all know, there’s a conversation happening across Canada about how we can empower Indigenous families, and this conversation is bigger than just child intervention,” he said.
“This is a conversation about how all orders of government, the courts, housing, healthcare, education, can better support Indigenous children and families.”
The foster care situation is all too familiar for Bren Littlelight.
“It just brings up a lot of horrible memories from when I was taken. I was still in diapers when I was taken from the reserve.”Littlelight was adopted by a non-Indigenous family in Yellowknife and taken thousands of miles away from her home in Siksika.“I think I was in Grade 2 when I was on the bus and someone said to me, ‘Do you see that little boy over there, that’s your brother,’” LIttlelight said.Littlelight says it’s important for an Indigenous child to know their culture.“I don’t know my language and that really hurts me,” Littlelight said.“I don’t know how to speak Blackfoot and I just recently started to pow wow dance. I need to know my culture.“I have a child now and he’s in his second year of university taking Indigenous studies and I can’t even explain it to him.”
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“Our parents often don’t know their rights, they don’t know that they can appoint an advocate,” Ledoux said.The trial for this child and family case continues Tuesday when final statements will be made.
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