PC family services critic Ian Wishart is calling on the Selinger government to reconsider its disrespectful move to muzzle the newly appointed First Nations Family Advocate.
Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross recently announced the government is going back to the drawing board on long-overdue legislative changes to children’s services, and rather than seeking partnership will appoint her own deputy associate First Nations children’s advocate.
“We’re not seeing any meaningful action, discussion or genuine partnership before the next election. The dithering by this minister is a disgrace to the memory of Phoenix Sinclair,” Wishart said. “Now she’s adding insult to injury by naming her own First Nations children’s advocate.”
Last June, tired of waiting for action, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs appointed Cora Morgan as First Nations Family Advocate. The assembly created the position in response to mounting concerns about child welfare in Manitoba. Nearly 11,000 kids are in care and roughly 90 per cent of them are Aboriginal. Saskatchewan, with almost identical demographics, has about 4,600 children in care.
“Aboriginal children have a First Nations advocate and a very effective one. Cora doesn’t need an NDP-appointed watchdog looking over her shoulder,” Wishart added. “The minister needs to take meaningful action instead of muzzling Cora, who has been fearless and outspoken.”
In January 2014, Commissioner Ted Hughes made 62 recommendations for improving the province's child welfare system after the Phoenix Sinclair tragedy. Irvin-Ross hired a consultant to help implement 31 of the 62 recommendations. That consultant’s report was delayed until January 2015. This past summer, Irvin-Ross announced child welfare legislation is being reviewed yet again, which will mean further delays instead of action, going well past the next election.