Saskatchewan’s children and youth advocate Lisa Broda released her annual report on Tuesday, highlighting the many issues surroundings vulnerable kids in the province and the role the coronavirus pandemic has had on their mental health.
The report shows problems of abuse, violence and death. In 2020, 38 children died while receiving, or having recently received, services from the Ministry of Social Services or a delegated First Nations Child and Family Services Agency.
Of those deaths, 35 were First Nations or Métis.
“They make up the bulk of who’s in the system in this province,” Broda told Global News on Wednesday.
“I think the biggest thing is that legacy of colonialism has resulted in more risk to Indigenous children, child well-being, particularly, and our current system can’t easily address it.”
Nine of the 38 deaths were from suspected homicides, two were by suicide and two were from alcohol or drug toxicity.
In 2019, Broda reported 34 deaths among children and youth.
The report also revealed critical injury data for those receiving or having recently received child and family services. In 2020, there were 35 critical injuries involving 33 children and youth, 31 of which were either First Nations or Métis.
There were eight attempted suicides, three self-harm incidences and four shootings.
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In 2019, Broda reported 33 critical injuries among children and youth.
“This is the highest total we’ve had in the last decade, or ever actually,” Broda said when talking about death and critical injury numbers. “I think the concerning trends here are the violence and abuse.”
There was a decrease in child abuse claims in 2020 and although Broda wasn’t able to directly link it to the coronavirus pandemic, she believes it played a role.
She said child interactions under the watchful eyes of educational staff, social workers, doctors, community support workers, community members and family have been limited during the pandemic, creating fewer channels to observe and report abuse.
“There are fewer children being seen directly by stakeholders that would typically be involved in their lives,” Broda said. “This is exacerbated for vulnerable groups who are experiencing stressors pre-pandemic and then that’s amplified because of the pandemic.”
Broda said there could be a significant rise in reported abuse claims post-pandemic when kids begin receiving in-person services once again.
With Indigenous children and youth receiving government services continuing to be high-risk of abuse, violence and death, Broda said the system in place needs to be proactive rather than reactive.
She said the federal bill giving Nations the right to re-assert jurisdiction over child welfare is a step forward.
Some communities in Saskatchewan, like Cowessess First Nation, are already moving in that direction.