Coast Salish Territory – Vancouver BC – The provincial BC First Nations health and wellness advocacy body, the First Nations Health Council (FNHC), is deeply discouraged with the approach taken by the Province of British Columbia in the release of the Plecas Review, Part One: Decision Time.
The Plecas Review was prepared without consulting First Nations in British Columbia. As the report describes, 60.6 percent of the 7,200 children in care across British Columbia are Aboriginal. This report does not account for or reflect First Nations perspectives and vision of services for children, youth and families in British Columbia. The exclusion of First Nations in the development of this report further contributes to the erosion of First Nations confidence and trust in the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD).
On December 15, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) will release its final report. In this report, the TRC will restate its call for fundamental change to the child welfare system in Canada. The TRC has been clear that the current crisis of First Nations children in care is a direct consequence of failed policy. While the Government of Canada has committed to implement the TRC calls to action in full partnership with First Nations across Canada, the Premier of British Columbia has provided no indication or interest to take similar action. The TRC report reminds us that no longer can the Province of British Columbia make decisions about us, without us.
The FNHC is extremely troubled with the conclusion of Mr. Plecas that critical incidents and deaths of children in care is accepted as an inevitability. This is completely inconsistent with the FNHC vision of healthy, self-determining and vibrant First Nation children, families and communities and a serious risk for the wellbeing of our children. It is our perspective that more must be done to take care of those children that find themselves in the most complicated circumstances. This will require concerted and coordinated action to restore family and community connectedness, improve social conditions, and address the social challenges inherent to the current epidemic of First Nations children in care.
In 2015, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY) released a report titled Growing up in British Columbia. While data on First Nations children and youth is limited, the report clearly signals that historic inequities continue. This report calls for a government-wide response from the Province of British Columbia and collaboration with First Nations to address the upstream factors that shape the social determinants of health.
The FNHC has a rich history of partnership with the Province of British Columbia in the area of health. Since 2007, the FNHC and the Province of British Columbia have made progress toward the shared vision of healthy, self-determining and vibrant BC First Nation children, families and communities playing an active role in decision-making regarding their individual and collective wellness.
In 2013, this partnership resulted in the transfer of federal health programs and services to a first of its kind province-wide First Nations Health Authority. This is a significant step toward improving health and wellness services for First Nations in British Columbia. While the FNHC agrees that more must be done to overcome current challenges, this must be done in full partnership with First Nations. The health partnership between the FNHC and the Province of British Columbia is an example of what can be achieved when First Nations and the provincial government collaborate on common goals.
First Nations Health Council