Dr. Swann in Question Period on Child Protective Services on First Nations – 10 May 2017

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Child Protective Services on First Nations

Dr. Swann: Yesterday the wounds from Serenity’s tragic death were reopened as we learned that six more children remain in the same home where her life was cut short. Our first reaction is to assume that the other children in the home might be in danger as well; however, the government says that there’s no evidence of abuse or neglect that would cause them to intervene, and clearly there are difficult jurisdictional issues here involving a federal on-reserve family. That is good to hear, that reassurance from the minister, but Albertans cannot understand why we wouldn’t err on the side of caution. To the minister: as a provincial authority what evidence do you base your decision on?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Ms Larivee: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the member for the question. Absolutely, the safety of Alberta’s children is the key priority of Children’s Services, so when there is any evidence or complaint or indication of concern, that is followed up with a thorough assessment as to the safety and well-being of Alberta’s children. I will continue to state very clearly that when there is specific evidence of abuse of a child, that child is apprehended and then is supported by the courts. We continue to monitor the situation to ensure the safety and well-being . . .

The Speaker: Thank you, hon. minister.

Dr. Swann: Well, let me put it very succinctly, Mr. Speaker. First Nations children on reserve land are under the authority of the delegated First Nations authorities. Who is ultimately responsible for the safety of reserve children, the DFNAs or you?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Ms Larivee: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We work very closely with the delegated First Nations authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of children on Alberta’s First Nations. It’s no secret that conditions for children on First Nations in this province are far below what they are for children who live off-reserve. That’s very unacceptable, and there are many issues that need to be resolved, that have been complicated and have existed for a very long time. We’re very committed to working with our First Nations to make sure that First Nations children have access to the kind of care and support that all children deserve, but their safety . . .

The Speaker: Thank you, hon. minister.

Dr. Swann: Mr. Speaker, the Premier rightly identified Serenity’s death as a reason to establish the Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention to fix what the Premier called systemic problems. The system supposed to be watching out for Serenity clearly failed; however, we must not allow the jurisdictional issues to fail these children again. Finally, to the minister: if you come to believe that these six children are not safe but are outside your jurisdiction, what is your role to ensure their safety?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Ms Larivee: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to reassure the member that the safety of those children absolutely is my responsibility through Children’s Services. Absolutely, if there is evidence that those children are not safe, that those children are being abused, then we’ll utilize the power that the law has granted to us to apprehend those children.