Canada can’t turn a blind eye to Indigenous deaths linked to B.C. group home

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Numerous deaths have been linked to an Indigenous group home in B.C. The home has seen the deaths of five Indigenous teens both while in the care of the home and after ageing out of it. While the Canadian government has addressed this issue, it hasn’t acted to help fix it.

The group home was originally meant to be a place where Indigenous teens could stay connected with their culture and community while staying at the home. Staff say their experience at the home was positive before it began to go downhill as a result of layoffs and lack of qualified leadership.

While Canada prefers to view residential schools and the Sixties Scoop as tragedies of the past, these events continue to have very real repercussions today. Residential school survivors are still alive today, many of which have children suffering from generational trauma.

The Canadian government has addressed its racist history and attempted to atone, but it hasn’t done enough. Even with its commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, Canada has done little beyond words of apology and reactive inquiries into racist incidents.

This isn’t the first death at this agency, either; in 2002, a two-year-old died in its care. After a 2003 review, the B.C. government found that the agency failed to meet all requirements for child protection standards. More than a decade later, nothing tangible has been done, and more youth have died as a result.

Canada must do more. It can start by providing Indigenous group homes like this one with more funding and supports.

That said, it shouldn’t assert itself on Indigenous communities, but listen and genuinely commit to offering whatever supports they might need. 

In terms of group homes like this one, there need to be more supports in place for Indigenous youth. Many of the teenagers linked to the group home that died did so soon after ageing out of the system.

While it’s important to give youth the tools to succeed after ageing out of their group homes, support systems shouldn’t simply dry up when one turns 19. Rather, there should be transitional homes to help these youth onto their feet. Investing in mental health services, both while in the home and after ageing out of it, is also imperative.

Canada can’t wash itself of the past while people are still suffering from it. It has a duty to support Indigenous group homes—though this must be done in conversation with Indigenous leaders and communities.

One death, let alone five, is more than enough to warrant immediate, timely action—action Canada has yet to provide.

—Journal Editorial Board

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