REGINA – Recent numbers from Statistics Canada show nearly 48 per cent of foster children across the country are aboriginal and the number in Saskatchewan is even more striking.
Derald Dubois has been working in the child welfare system for almost three decades.
He deals primarily with first nations cases and as an aboriginal man, he knows the troubles facing many in his community as a direct result of what he says of historic injustices like residential schools.
“We suffer a lot of issues, overcrowding, poverty, you know they’re vulnerable.”
“It was the church that ripped our family systems apart and now it’s the state,” Dubois added.
According to Statics Canada, in 2011 aboriginal children made up 25 per cent of the child population in Saskatchewan, yet accounted for 85 per cent of the children in foster care.
The province of Saskatchewan uses a different form of calculation and has their number at 70 per cent.
“I think the practice of social work doesn’t take into account our history,” Dubois said while also explaining that many social workers don’t understand the culture.
The Ministry of Social Services said they do provide cultural sensitivity training for their staff and are trying different approaches.
“We have delegation agreements with 17 first nations agencies to provide child welfare services.” Social Services deputy minister Tammy Kirkland said.
Dubois is head of one those agencies, Touchwood Child and Family Services, but admits he isn’t impressed.
“We’re shut out, our leadership is shutout. They have no say in policy development,” he said.
Dubois says the agencies can only enforce the ministry’s policies and that in order to see substantial change, both the community and its leaders need to be involved.