QUEEN’S PARK – NDP MPPs Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain), Official Opposition critic for Children, Community and Social Services and Sol Mamakwa (Kiiwetinoong) Official Opposition critic for Indigenous and Treaty Relations have issued the following statement in response to the Ombudsman’s shocking report about the system’s mistreatment of Indigenous children:
“Thank you to the Ombudsman for this important and timely report. – We've seen repeated and damning reports in recent years that Ontario's reliance on private providers of child protective services (group and foster homes) does not meet the complex needs of vulnerable children in care, at-risk of exploitation.
The lack of provincial resources for northern First Nations to be able to provide culturally appropriate wrap-around services to children such as "Misty" is also well established. This government has not ever adequately addressed this.
As the Ombudsman points out, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls specifically addresses "the obligation of the child welfare system to protect Indigenous children from exploitation and the risk of being recruited into the sex industry." Despite the Ford government's stated and oft repeated emphasis on combatting trafficking, the conditions that lead children such as "Misty" to being vulnerable to trafficking have never been a priority of this government.
The private provider, Johnson Family Services (JFS), was found to be “particularly remiss” in its obligations to provide care to “Misty”. JFS did not provide even the basic levels of care that they are funded to provide. They “failed” to meet requirements of basic reporting that lead to the events that directly impacted Misty’s safety and well-being.
JFS has previously been found to not have provided the services they are required to provide to the at-risk children in their care. In 2017, some of their homes in the North were ordered closed.
If private providers continue to receive public funds to provide protection and care to our vulnerable children, and they neglect this responsibility, the Ministry needs to do its job and pull these licenses.
The responsibility to protect vulnerable children ultimately lies with the government. It’s clear their actions, when it comes to children such as ‘Misty,’ don’t match their rhetoric.
What has the Minister done to hold these group home operators accountable after the mountain of evidence that they’re not up to the job? What does the Minister or this government plan to do to act on the Ombudsman’s important recommendations?
Children and youth are the ones who pay in full with their lives when the systems of colonialism and oppression continue to fail them. Child welfare systems have worked to create the conditions that maintain violence in families, in communities, and to Indigenous children and youth across Canada. Misty’s story is an example of this. We must ensure these recommendations are properly resourced and implemented to ensure the rights of families and the rights of Indigenous children and youth are upheld.
We want to see concrete action from the Minister. We need to know how he plans to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations so reports like these stops being the norm for children in our province.”