Let’s focus on creating resilient communities.

Yesterday, I spoke to Bill 26, the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s proposed amendments to the Child, Family, and Community Services Act.

One of the most heartbreaking issues that I deal with in my constituency office is the separation of families. I continue to witness desperate parents who are resigned to helplessness in the face of a power imbalance against a ministry whose mandate it is to preserve families but the interpretation of that mandate can instead lead to destruction.

As such, I have much to say about this Act, about how it is applied, and about how the proposed amendments do nothing to address the systemic issues that negatively impact Cowichan Valley and BC families.

Yesterday, we celebrated Mother’s Day. It’s one of my favourite days of the year. There’s always breakfast. There are cards and homemade gifts. There are hugs and kisses. I always feel the deep happiness and sense of all being right with the world, the 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’s a day for society to recognize the intrinsic and valuable role that mothers play in raising future generations. There’s 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 elemental relationship between mothers and their children.

Let us begin in the hospitals.

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. Often these are first-time mothers who have yet to reveal to society and themselves how capable they are at being a mother of a child. A Huu-ay-aht mother whose infant was removed from her with no clear specific cause fought back in the B.C. Supreme Court and, with the help of her lawyer and her community, was reunited with her infant.

In Cowichan, a group of women, including a midwife and a parent advocate, rallied around and supported a mom who had been informed that her infant was to be removed at hospital. These moms were with their infants this Mother’s Day, but they will also 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 been 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’s Indigenous. As an Indigenous mother, she has every reason to be fearful. Fewer than 10 percent of children in B.C. are Indigenous, but they make up nearly 65 percent of children in government care, which means, statistically, that this mother is right to be afraid.

I can’t imagine. I can’t begin to fathom how this would affect my day-to-day experience — 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, these judgments do not translate into the very real possibility that our children could be taken from us.

What are the outcomes for the children in care? These outcomes, sadly, reinforce our fears and our worries. An article by Katie Hyslop in the Tyee last week reinforces exactly why federal Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott has said that we have a humanitarian crisis in Canada.

In B.C., children in care are more likely to spend time in jail in their lives than they are to graduate from high school. Across Canada, 60 percent of homeless youth have been in the foster care system.

Continuing from Hyslop’s article, according to Shelly Johnson, assistant professor of education at Thompson Rivers University and a former child welfare social worker: “Governments haven’t just known about this crisis for four decades. They created and perpetuated a system that keeps Indigenous kids in government care.”

Johnson continues: “The whole system was established to maintain control over Indigenous people. When you have Indigenous children in your care and custody, you have all the power over that family.” All the power.

As Hyslop points out in her article, in his 1982 report on the adoption of First Nations and Métis children outside the country, Assistant Chief Justice Kimelman said that the child welfare system was an act of cultural genocide. He explained that from inside of the system, it’s difficult to see the macro level impacts, but the cumulative effects of each decision resulted in catastrophe.

Kimelman wrote: “Every social worker, every administrator and every agency or region viewed the situation from a narrow perspective and saw each individual case as an exception, as a case involving extenuating circumstances.”

I see that in my riding. I raise issues, heartbreaking examples, of how the application of this act is failing families. I am met with justifications and excuses. I hear from parents over and over that they have been told: “You will never see your children again.” Or: “If you don’t comply, your children will be taken.” I see it when MCFD staff, from front-line social workers to ministry staff, justify each action, each apprehension, each time that the systemic issues play out over and over again.

Each case they think is justified, and yet there is, at the same time, the acknowledgement that there are systemic issues.

MCFD needs to work very hard and very diligently to reconcile this conflict, this contradiction. If indeed there is systemic paternalism and systemic discrimination, and the minister acknowledges this in her comments, then each and every action needs to be assessed. This is one of the truth and reconciliation calls to action — that the federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments monitor and assess neglect investigations — and I urge the minister to take this call seriously. Without accountability becoming embedded in the practice, the systemic issues will continue, and parents and families will continue to be traumatized, terrified and desperate for help and support.

One of the most heart-wrenching stories I heard was from a victim support person with the RCMP. She worked with a mom whose infant had been apprehended. She helped the mom get through the entire list of requirements that MCFD had given her. The mom and the victim support worker both thought that if these requirements were fulfilled, the child would be returned. But after the significant effort on the part of the mom, she was told that there would now be new requirements. It broke that mother. She had worked hard in good faith to do what she had been told would be necessary to be reunited with her child, and then she was denied that fundamental right to be the mother to her own infant.

Are children actually safer or better off in care? A few, certainly, but the statistics and reports tell a chilling tale. There’s no lack of researching and reporting on the many issues, challenges and failures of B.C.’s child welfare system.

Since the release of the Ted Hughes report in 2006, the Representative for Children and Youth has released dozens and dozens of reports, reviews and statements with recommendations to address the ongoing failures within the child welfare system, and what is the current reality? Still today, each month the representative’s office receives 200 reports on critical injuries and deaths. Of these 200, 85 per month are related to child welfare services. That’s 1,000 service-related reports of critical injury or death reviewed by the representative’s office each year that are specifically related to service delivery.

What are the top three reported issues? Sexual abuse, drug overdose and suicide attempts. In the last three months, according to the Representative for Children and Youth, there have been roughly 80 reports of suicide attempts.

This is a catastrophe.

It’s been ten months since the new government was sworn in, and what has changed? In my constituency office, we hear from parents in despair whose children were removed not because of their inability to parent but because of the lack of support, usually related to poverty. For example, a woman is abused by her partner. The police and social workers are called to an incident at the home. The abuser is removed from the home as a precaution. The children are also removed and separated from their mother. The children’s first trauma is the act of violence to the mother. The second trauma is being separated from the mother, the person whose comfort they need and for whom they can also be comforting.

We underestimate the value of this connection and that the comfort is not from parent to child only; that shared comfort is necessary for the family to feel grounded in love, which helps them overcome trauma.

What we have witnessed in our work with local families is a discrepancy between what the legislation says and what actions are taken. More worrying still is that we hear ministry management saying that their message to ministry staff is to be creative in finding solutions that will keep Indigenous children out of care. That message is taking a long time to reach staff on the ground because it’s still, ten months into this new government’s term, a daily fight for each of these families to receive the support they need to keep their children at home.

The question I ask myself is this. If the directive from the top of the ministry is to do everything possible to keep Indigenous families together and in their communities, why can’t we see the evidence of this at our constituency level? What are the consequences for staff members who are not following management direction?

I’m not the only one asking this question. In his comments to the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth, the Representative for Children and Youth said that there is recognition within the ministry that the priority should be to support families, but that he just doesn’t see “the implementation of this in practice.”

Indeed, section 2 of the Child, Family and Community Services Act, as it stands right now, which outlines the guiding principles of the legislation that currently governs the Ministry of Children and Families, states that “a family is the preferred environment for the care and upbringing of children and the responsibility for the protection of children rests primarily with the parents” and “if, with available support services, a family can provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child, support services should be provided. ”

But what do we see in our constituency office week after week? Parents desperate for help and support from us as they try to navigate a system that is not living up to these guiding principles.

Every one of these parents wants to parent their children. Every one of them wants to know what it will take to get their children back. Every one of them is asking for more access to their children, which is sometimes as little as one hour per week. Every one of them has had a stack of paperwork with evidence of a process that many of us in this chamber would find impossible to navigate. Every one of them has had detailed knowledge of the Provincial Court and MCFD systems. Every one of them has said to us that they want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to somebody else.

As desperate as they are to be reunited with their own children —and, I would argue, as a result of the trauma of separation — they are selflessly motivated to make changes to the system to protect others from having to undergo the same.

Let’s begin with the fundamental assumption that parents have the right and the ability to raise their children. My question is: why can’t parents point to section 2 of the act today and expect support from this system? If their children are in care and the government is paying a foster parent or a group home to support that child, why can’t these parents expect that support?

When two out of three children in care in B.C. are Indigenous, we are a long way as a province from righting the legacy of assimilation policies, residential schools and the forced removal of children that is so sadly woven into the fabric of our nation’s history.

We talk about reconciliation, but what does it really look like? Reconciliation means putting forward legislation that includes the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action. This legislation does not.

Reconciliation means empowering ministry staff at all levels to fund programs and provide supports that focus on family preservation, as per section 2 of the act, and putting consequences in place when this does not happen. Reconciliation means giving the mother the benefit of the doubt, rather than subjecting her to a paternalistic, colonial process that erases her voice and her agency in the decisions that affect her the most. Reconciliation means providing social workers with a deep understanding of cultural practices and how they impact decision-making for parents.

I imagine a different future for families in B.C. It’s one where, if the Ministry of Children and Family Development knocks on your door, you open it up and gladly let them in — gratefully, willingly — because you know that they are there to provide you with the support that you need.

We have seen examples of the outcomes of programs like this in our province. Take the ‘Namgis Nation in Alert Bay. If children there are in need of protection, they remain in contact with the biological parent or parents, who stay in the child’s life while they are supported in their journey to becoming healthier parents. As one social worker said in a recent news article: “It’s like two canoes side by side on the journey together.”

Social worker and director of Alert Bay’s ‘Namgis Community Services, Wendy White, said: “Our role is to provide resources, information, referrals and support, but we are not the ones guiding the decision-making for the child.” Instead, it’s the family.

I visited Alert Bay twice this year, and both times I stood in awe of the teenagers and youth who were advocating for the end of fish farms in our province. These are empowered, young, Indigenous people whose energy is focused on making the world a better place.

Yet so many of this province’s youth, who have spent their childhoods in the foster care system and have no family canoe alongside them, are focused on survival. Being in survival mode means that people cannot work to their full potential. How many children in our province are not reaching their full potential?

The cases that come to my constituency office are the latest in a long, tragic history of government intervention in Indigenous families. The overwhelming numbers of Indigenous children in our welfare system, both as a country and province, are the result of a historical legacy that continues to this day. As settlers moved into what is now known as British Columbia, they attempted to assimilate the vibrant Indigenous cultures and nations who were already here.

But they didn’t just take the physical land itself. They targeted the children. Agents of the government would enter the communities and homes of Indigenous peoples and take their children from them, as is so tragically represented in Kent Monkman’s The Scream and Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse.

The government tried to justify these practices. Marks of cultural difference were perceived as child abuse. Government workers saw birthmarks common in some Indigenous communities and deemed them bruises. Homes that looked different from your average European home were unfit. Religious, linguistic and ceremonial practices were called “savage” and in need of “civilization.” In this way, the apprehension of Indigenous children was justified and normalized in government policies.

The stolen children were placed in residential schools across the country. There were five of these schools on Vancouver Island and 18 in British Columbia. In the care of religious and educational officials, these children were forbidden to speak their own languages or maintain their religious and cultural practices. Often, they were purposely placed in residential schools far away from their traditional homes.

The scale of the physical, emotional and sexual abuse was monumental. Many children died. Some were forcibly sterilized. The schools operated for over 100 years, and the last one only closed in 1996. In the middle of the 20th century, adoption was seen as another tool for assimilation. Again, this was grounded in the justification the government was acting in the best interests of Indigenous children.

By this time, there were already multiple generations of residential school survivors. Therefore, intergenerational trauma was widespread. Children’s homes and communities were impacted by the far-reaching repercussions of residential schools. They were also often growing up in rural, underserved communities with low socioeconomic status.

Rather than addressing the root of the problem or providing Indigenous families with the resources to heal and support their children, social workers were instructed to remove the children. They were removed not only from their families and communities but also from the region, the province and, sometimes, the country.

From this arose the infamous Sixties Scoop, as thousands of children were apprehended and placed in the homes of non-Indigenous families. Some of the adoptive families were abusive or had internalized racist ideas. Some were located in completely different regions of Canada or even in other countries, especially the United States, which created jurisdictional nightmares for children and parents seeking reunification.

Sometimes children were simply lost. Once apprehended, government agencies would not often give the parents any information regarding where or with whom their children were. Between 1951 and 1991, Indigenous and Inuit children were taken into care and placed with non-Indigenous parents, where they were not raised in accordance with their cultural traditions nor taught their traditional language.

Take the case of Lillian Semaganis, for instance. In 1973, she opened the newspaper and found the faces of her two young daughters being advertised for adoption. She had not been notified that they were even facing adoption. When they were adopted, it would be decades before she found one of them.

The fate of the other, a little girl named Cleo, only came to light after Lillian’s death. Cleo had been adopted out to a white family in New Jersey, far from her home in Little Pine, Saskatchewan. She had wanted nothing more than to go home to Little Pine to find her mother and her siblings, but she was not permitted to. Cleo’s family only discovered her fate this spring, 45 years later, in an investigation by CBC News. The Sixties Scoop lawsuits claim citing the loss of cultural identity, and psychological, emotional and physical abuse of those apprehended. The claim includes $750 million for the survivors, $50 million for an Indigenous healing foundation, and $75 million for legal fees. I wonder how much the millennial scoop will cost future governments.

Nico Trocmé is the director of McGill University school of social work and principal researcher for the Canadian incidence study of reported child abuse and neglect, a national database that collects information on the characteristics of kids and families that comes to child welfare’s attention. As reported in today’s Tyee, according to Trocmé, the main reason cited for taking Indigenous children away from their family and into government care is neglect. And neglect is another way, according to Trocmé, to describe poverty.

He says: “I’ve certainly never seen any evidence from any of the research to indicate that there is something endemic to First Nations families that would explain a higher rate of placement. It has much more to do with the high rates of poverty and difficult social and economic circumstances they’re living in.” And yet the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the government has been systematically discriminating against 163,000 First Nations children by refusing to fund services for them at the same rates as non–First Nations children.

At the same time, children across Canada are apprehended from Indigenous families at an astonishing rate. Children are apprehended because their families cannot afford adequate housing, food and clothing for their families and being put into homes where foster parents are given funds to provide for the children. Today women are having their babies taken away from them hours after birth in hospitals across this province, including the hospital a short drive from here in the Cowichan Valley.

Young parents are afraid to access government services because they worry that government policies will result in the apprehension of their children. Once the child is and apprehended, reunification is an uphill battle. It can be hard to even find information about where the child is or how they’re doing. To avoid “emotional and physical harm, sometimes Indigenous parents are not even allowed to attend hearings regarding their child’s placement.”

There is an urgency to act. Every day that a mother is separated from her child is excruciating. As one expert put it: “We are not impounding cars.” But that responsibility to act urgently cannot overshadow Indigenous authority. We need to do the hard work urgently. We need to meet with every Nation in the province urgently. We need to learn from people in the system urgently. And we need to follow First Nation direction urgently.

But we cannot misuse that urgency as the right to blunder ahead with the latest iteration of government telling First Nation families how they ought to exist. Authority implies consent, something else that has been systematically denied to Indigenous peoples. Indigenous parents did not consent to their children being placed in residential schools or adopted by non-Indigenous families.

Indigenous people have been denied consent over their own bodies, as demonstrated by the prolific sexual abuse in residential schools and the ongoing cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women across this country. They are still being denied consent in terms of energy development and land use in their communities, as demonstrated by Trudeau’s assertion that the pipeline will go through.

The very, very least we could do — and this is far too little and too late — is give Indigenous peoples true consent and authority over the welfare of their children. In the words of one Cowichan elder, “Why do Indigenous people need to prove to the white people that we can raise our own kids?” — which brings me to the proposed legislation, Bill 26, the Child, Family and Community Service Amendment Act, 2018.

To start, I have significant concerns about how this was rolled out. Consultation was far from acceptable. Were the people who this will impact involved in its creation? Do we fully understand how it will play out in communities? Was this drafted and given to a few First Nations, a few days to read it, and then proceeded despite their concerns? From what has been communicated to me, that is what has happened.

When asked about the legislation being tabled, the First Nations summit of nations and tribal councils in B.C. said that the proposed changes were prepared unilaterally. In a Discourse Media article by Brielle Morgan, the First Nations summit raises the concerns that the bill’s proposed amendments “do not go far enough in addressing the principles of the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and the Indigenous peoples inherent right to self-determination and self-government.”

The summit wrote: “The amendments do not lay the foundation for the more significant shift required to change the child welfare conditions where the overrepresentation of First Nations children in care remains the most serious issue. The summit says it hopes that the government will realize that more profound improvements are needed.”

Why, for example, aren’t we seeing a clear commitment, in line with the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action, to monitor and assess neglect investigations, to provide adequate resources, to enable Indigenous communities and child welfare organizations to keep Indigenous families together, to ensure that social workers and others who conduct child welfare investigations are properly educated and trained about the history and impacts of residential school.

The Office of the Representative for Children and Youth, the office that has produced over 70 reports on child welfare in B.C., was consulted after the legislation was drawn up and given 24 hours to respond to the proposed changes — 24 hours. “It was a fait accompli,” the representative said. The delegated Aboriginal agencies, the agencies providing the services to Indigenous families across this province were not asked for input.

As quoted in a CBC interview, Mary Teegee, chair of the delegated Aboriginal agencies provincial forum expressed her concerns. “As a partner working with the province and also with the federal government, we were not consulted. There are a lot of issues and concerns, and we haven’t had the time to digest what those are.” Teegee also pointed out in another interview: “We get our mandate from chiefs, so we’re representing about 121 chiefs in child and family services, as per the band council resolutions so by not talking to us, you’re missing that whole segment. We are the ones who provide the actual services in communities.”

Again, the urgency of a crisis should not be misused as a licence to skip the hard work that needs to be done in this province. This bill may be an improvement on the abysmal status quo, but it is built within the existing, problematic MCFD framework and far from self-determination. We will not change the course of history if we continue to follow the same policy-making format.

How these amendments came to be is as important as the legislation, and this process has not lived up to the expectations that many had of this government. It may give the ministry more tools for how they can involve First Nations in cases involving their children, but it will not, as drafted, do anything preventative to actually reduce the number of children in care. It will not provide support to families before they get to that crisis point.

My greatest fear is that it will not make a fundamental difference in the lives of mothers pulled into the system. My constituency staff and I witness this reality in Cowichan Valley. Family after family comes into our office sharing deeply troubling stories about their interactions with MCFD, about families disconnected, children separated from their parents and from each other and from their culture. The common thread is that they’re Indigenous. Many have come from generations of families raised in foster care, and many have parents and grandparents who are survivors of residential school.

The solution is both simple and complex. Simply, Indigenous communities need autonomy in child wellness. They are able to raise their own children within their own culture and can support each other through difficult times. Their resiliency is unmatched. Our legislation interferes with that autonomy.

Bill 26 will do more to involvement communities in the MCFD framework, but it does not give families more autonomy. How do we begin to address the humanitarian crisis with the sense of urgency that it deserves?

We start by establishing the terms upon which legislative changes will be made in the future, terms that are established by First Nations leadership and community members and that come from a rights-based lens. Next any legislative amendments must be made after broad and deep consultation with First Nations leadership and community members, especially those who are impacted by the legislation — mothers, fathers, children, youth, parents and grandparents.

Keeping a mother who may have her own unresolved trauma together with her infant means taking different steps in child wellness than the universally applied approach we take today. Recognizing that the bond between mother and child, if nurtured, can be part of a healing journey, while breaking that bond perpetuates the same tragic cycle, must be part of this conversation.

Because of the lack of involvement and guidance from a broad spectrum of the people it will impact, I am having a challenging time with this bill. How is it — after all these years, all these apologies, all these admissions of systemic racism, abuse, discrimination — policy-makers are still trying to dictate how to deal with problems that have been created by these systems? Have we not learned from the countless mistakes?

How have we not implemented every recommendation from Chief Ed John’s report, all five of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action and the hundreds of recommendations from the Representative for Children and Youth? How have we not stepped aside, making room and supporting First Nations leadership with funding? The people who have lived with these problems are best equipped to begin to address them. That means handing over the power.

I went to the theatre last week to watch Indian Horse. The movie, based on the book by Richard Wagamese, tells the story of a young boy apprehended into a residential school in the 1970s. The main character, Saul Indian Horse, is given the nickname Bambi by his hockey team. Like Bambi, Saul shows his strength, his resilience and his courage by the end of his story.

Indian Horse tells a story of how the state sought to destroy a people by targeting their culture, children, language and bodies. I tried to imagine what I would have done if I was an elected official during that time. I hope I would have stood up and said no. I hope I would have seen clearly that the ways First Nations children were being treated were leading to their demise and death. I hope I would have believed them when they said that they were being sexually, physically and emotionally abused in the system. I hope I would have noticed that the children who survived the system took that trauma home with them and that they were finding addiction and suicide at higher rates than anyone else. I hope I would have recognized that none of it was in the best interests of the child. I hope I would have been brave enough to say: “No more. Not again.”

Hindsight makes everything clearer, but history holds lessons that we all need to hear. It breaks my heart that we as a country have repeatedly failed to learn these lessons and that in 2018 the state of Indigenous child welfare is deemed by a federal minister to be “a humanitarian crisis.”

Now we have a bill that is intended to help right some of these wrongs, but it is built within the system that perpetuates the problems. It was drafted without substantial involvement of a wide number of First Nations families or leaders. There are some potentially positive aspects; however, as has been pointed out, the analysis of the impacts on the ground is lacking.

Section 2, the addition of the principle that Indigenous communities share the responsibility of the upbringing of Indigenous children, seems a step in the right direction. But where is the funding? Is there a danger of off-loading to communities without adequate support? As the Representative for Children and Youth pointed out, and what I have witnessed in the application of the act as it stands: “Intention and words are one thing, but the implementation into practice is something completely different.”

I come back to Section 2 of the Act as it stands right now, which states: “…(e) kinship ties and a child’s attachment to the extended family should be preserved if possible; (f) the cultural identity of aboriginal children should be preserved.” And: “…aboriginal people should be involved in the planning and delivery of services to aboriginal families and their children.”

The intentions are written. But how are government staff who make decisions about families and children currently being held to account to uphold these guiding principles? How are they being held to account to uphold to existing service standards? What happens when they don’t? Where is MCFD’s commitment to ensuring that the current guidelines, much less the new ones proposed, will be upheld? What are the ramifications if they are not?

Let me read from MCFD’s service delivery standards document, particularly Standard 2, Children and Families from Aboriginal Communities.

It states: “To preserve and promote a child’s Aboriginal heritage and connection to his or her Aboriginal community, the following must be involved in all significant decisions when determining the child’s Aboriginal connections, heritage and descent and when assessing, planning and providing services for the child: the child, the child’s family, the child’s extended family, the child’s Aboriginal community, the identified delegated agency and any other community agencies involved with the child and family, and any significant people identified by the child and his or her family or Aboriginal community.”

These standards exist today. I ask again: how is MCFD holding itself to account when these standards are not met, when the guiding principles of the legislation are ignored? Where is the balance between determining when a child needs protection and when the child can be supported in his home and in the community? How will social workers determine this?

Section 92 of the proposed legislation gives the ability for the director to step aside and for a nation to take control of a file. The precondition of this is that the nation has its own legislation. How are nations going to get the support to create and implement that legislation? How many nations in B.C. currently have this legislation in place? What if a parent does not want the participation of a nation?

I have asked many mothers about their idea of information being shared without their consent, and many have been deeply troubled by this. “I don’t have a good relationship with my band,” said one. “I don’t want them involved.” What about two parents from different nations or a child from one band and a parent from another? How does the director determine which nation is informed or engaged? Where is the federal government in this equation? Where is the commitment from the province and the federal government to work together with First Nations? What about the current federal funding levels that are predicated on apprehension? How does this legislation provide more support to families, more support to nations, create more emphasis on preservation and support of families?

There are so many unanswered questions, not just from me but from the people who are on the front lines of this crisis every day. There needs to be a lesson in this, and I hope that this government takes this seriously.

The work moving forward must start with and be led by Indigenous communities. The work moving forward must start with and be led by the people living the experience and suffering the consequences of a system that was designed to colonize and that continues to operate from a paternalistic, authoritarian position.

I will vote to support this bill because it is looking in the right direction, but I do not do so lightly, knowing its creation was not led by the people it will impact, nor were they given sufficient opportunity to comment.

I will vote to support this bill with a solemn promise to stand up and say no. No more creating or changing legislation that impacts First Nations communities or families without following their lead.

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