Mother’s Day: it’s one of my favourite days of the year. There is breakfast made by the kids, and cards, and homemade gifts. There are hugs and kisses. I always feel a deep happiness, a sense of all being right with the world, a slowing down of time as I savour the moments of warmth and connection with my family.
Mother’s Day isn’t just all about mothers. It’s about the bond—the love—that connects us as mothers to our children, who are for us, precious and valuable beyond measure. It is a day for society to recognize the intrinsic role mothers play in raising future generations.
There is no love like the love I have for my children; it is boundless, it is ferocious, it is unrelenting. I can imagine nothing worse than being separated from them.
Over the course of this last year, since the election, since opening our constituency office, I have become increasingly aware that we are failing, in this province and in this country, to honour mothers, to honour the relationships between mothers and their children.
Let us begin in the hospitals.
Imagine within hours of giving birth—one of the most difficult experiences a woman can go through— imagine within hours of holding your infant son or daughter for the first time, having a social worker come into your hospital room to inform you that your infant is going to be removed from you.
It’s 2018. In Canada. And government employees are removing infants from their mothers in hospitals. Sometimes, these are first-time mothers. They have been mothers for a matter of hours and they are being told, “you don’t have the right to keep your baby.”
A Huu-ay-aht mother whose infant was removed from her—with no clear, specific cause—fought back in the BC Supreme Court, and with the help of her lawyer was reunited with her infant. You can read about this here and here.
In Cowichan, a group of women, including a midwife and a parent advocate, rallied around and supported a mom who had been informed her infant was to be removed at the hospital. The Globe and Mail’s Justine Hunter wrote about this, in her story “Defending the Indigenous Newborns of BC.”
These moms will be with their infants this Mother’s Day, but they have something that no mother should have to live with: the fear of losing their children to a government agency.
As one mother whose children have never apprehended explained, “I have raised my children in fear. Fear that I will be judged for what they are wearing, what’s in their lunch, how I speak to them in public. That fear is in my cells, and it has affected who I am as a mother, and it has affected my children.”
Why does this mother feel this fear? Because she is Indigenous.
And as an indigenous mother, she has every reason to be fearful. Fewer than 10% of children in BC are Indigenous, but they make up nearly 65% of the children in government care. Which means, statistically, that this mother is right to be afraid.
Katie Hyslop has begun a series of articles in The Tyee that outlines the history of Canada’s intervention in Indigenous communities. Understanding our past is essential to changing our present and future – and we need to change the trajectory that we have been on as a country for far too long.
I can’t imagine. I can’t begin to fathom how this would affect my day-to-day existence, to be so deeply afraid of losing my children to a government agency. As mothers, we are subject to other people’s judgments all the time. But for most of us, those judgments do not translate into a very real possibility that our children will be taken from us.
I remain steadfast in working towards the vision that the systems will work to protect families and children, to support mothers. I believe that a significant shift will be necessary – a shift that begins with the fundamental starting point that Indigenous families and communities have the right to raise their own children. It will take far more than changing the current legislation and tinkering with the current framework. It will take Indigenous-led efforts to create an entirely different approaches and outcomes than what we have today.
I look forward to a time when parents will welcome the support offered to them, because they will know the person at the door is there to help the family, not to tear it apart.
To all the mothers out there—every one of you: enjoy today. You’ve earned it.