As Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, I would like to congratulate the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the release of their summary report on June 2. The report is a historic accomplishment that will change our country for the better.
As the membership organization that represents the 44 Children’s Aid Societies that provide child welfare services across Ontario, we are particularly grateful for the impact the Commission’s six years of thorough and compassionate work will have on the child welfare system.
We are deeply aware that the child welfare system has been failing our country’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit people for more than a century. Over 18% of children in care are of Indigenous background. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has taught us the extent to which this overrepresentation of children in care is a direct legacy of the inter-generational trauma caused by the residential schools.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s summary report is a call to action to all Canadians, but especially to the child welfare system. Over the last decade the system has made progress in how it supports Indigenous children and families. We are proud that nine Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario are now designated as Indigenous agencies and that their mandate is to serve their communities in ways that preserve their culture.
But serious work remains to be done. There is an urgent need for more funding for child welfare agencies that serve First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children and families. While legislation enables government to designate Indigenous child welfare organizations, the resources have not been provided to sustain this work. Unless similar investments are made into housing for Indigenous people, child welfare will be hampered in its ability to make lasting changes in the lives of Indigenous families.
Over the next few months the OACAS will be looking closely at the Commission’s recommendations for guidance as we continue to seek the right path to the best outcomes for the Indigenous children, youth and families who come to us for help.