Confrontation outside Calgary Children’s Services office caught on video

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Confrontation outside Calgary Children’s Services office caught on video
WATCH: A spotlight is on Alberta's Children's Services after a shocking video has gone viral. A video shows an aggressive interaction between a staff member at the Forest Lawn office and an advocate for Indigenous children and families. Jill Croteau reports – Jun 11, 2021

Cheryl Wozniak is a self-described children’s advocate. She had her own personal experiences with Alberta’s Children’s Services many years ago involving her own children.

She decided to tour parts of Alberta, stopping at Children’s Services offices throughout the province, raising awareness about parental rights for Indigenous families.

Wozniak\’s silent protest with chalk messages. Jill Croteau/Global News

“I am trying to reunite families for apprehending children based on hearsay,” Wozniak said. “I think it’s the 60’s Scoop rolled into millennium scoop and nothing has changed.”

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“It’s time for change. The system needs to be dismantled rebuilt and renamed.”

On Tuesday, Wozniak was writing chalk messages in the parking lot at Calgary’s Forest Lawn office when she says one woman, identified as the administrative team lead, confronted her.

Read more: Indigenous education framework established for Alberta’s children services workers

She captured it on her phone and the video is being watched and shared across social media.

“She came out and just went ballistic,” Wozniak said.

At one point, the woman identified as the administrative team lead for the office said: “If you don’t like Children’s Services taking your f***ing kids, maybe you should treat them right.”

“It hurt me. Angry, shocked and still in shock,” Wozniak said. “But it is something that needed to happen.”

Global News emailed and left phone messages for the woman in the video.

The creator of the group advocating for children in the system says they sent the video to numerous provincial government officials with no response.

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Lynne Marshalsay launched the group “Preserving Families: The Fight Against Alberta Child and Family Services.”

“My jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t even believe what I was watching,” Marshalsay said.

“Her behaviour shows the culture within Children and Family Services. What people don’t understand is this is just a snippet of what really goes on. People are losing their kids not based on the mandate of imminent danger,” Marshalsay said.

She wants the provincial government to intervene and overhaul the system.

“I hope this video wakes people up and makes somebody somewhere in the government change something.”

Children’s Services communications director Nancy Bishay said the ministry is aware of the video. She called the conduct unacceptable.

“The safety of clients and staff is of the utmost importance to us and it’s our expectation that our staff conduct themselves with professionalism and respect.

“Human Resources has been engaged. The staff member involved in the incident is now on administrative leave and an investigation is underway.”

The NDP Children’s Services Critic Rakhi Pacholi has sent a letter to Minister Rebecca Schulz, asking for another look at the comprehensive review of the child intervention process conducted by the NDP in 2017.

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“Given over-representation of Indigenous children in the child intervention system, many people might have perceived the language to be racist,” Pacholi said. “It was quite shocking and most people are hoping action will be taken.”

Wozniak vows to keep up the fight to make changes to the system.

“I would like every file investigated… People need to be held accountable for false apprehensions.”

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