November 19th, 2018 (Ottawa, ON) – Indigenous children and youth are among the most vulnerable in the province and face significant risk following the recently announced cut’s to Ontario’s Child Advocate position. The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) was shocked and concerned to learn about the move to cut the position, which acts as an independent body advocating for the rights of children and youth at risk. Last week, the Progressive Conservative government announced that they will close the office of the Advocate and repeal the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007.
“The protection and welfare of our children should be the number one priority of all orders of government,” stated National Chief Robert Bertrand, “this move to cut an advocate for the rights of children and youth, including Indigenous children in the child welfare system and youth corrections, is unprecedented”. For over 45 years, CAP has worked as the national voice of off-reserve status and non-status Indians, Métis, and Southern Labrador Inuit, through its provincial affiliates including the Ontario Coalition of Indigenous Peoples (OCIP).
Indigenous youth remain the fastest growing segment of this country’s population. The 2011 National Household Survey estimated that nearly 50% of the total number of children less than 14 years of age in Canada are Indigenous.
Across Canada today the number of Indigenous children in care exceeds that of the highest number of children placed in residential schools at their peak. The role of the Ontario’s Child Advocate was to advocate and investigate on behalf of the most vulnerable and marginalized children and youth in the Province. Without this essential service, Brad Maggrah, President of OCIP wonders who will shed light on gaps or failures in the system, and who will be the watchdog for Indigenous youth in the province that may be at risk.
“I am aware of Indigenous children in our communities who are caught up in the system,” Maggrah said, “children in care, or involved in the youth justice system. When children are without the care of their parents, you can’t help but worry about them. This move by our province to close the child advocate’s office is unacceptable and I hope that people in this province will voice their concerns and encourage the province to reconsider. OCIP implores the Ontario government to reverse this decision.”
“We stand by our provincial affiliate, OCIP, in reproaching the actions of the Ontario government to save money by making cuts that negatively impact our children,” concluded Chief Bertrand, “CAP is committed to ensuring that all our Indigenous children are treated with dignity and respect.”
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The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is the national voice representing the interests of Métis, status and non-status Indians, and Southern Inuit Indigenous People living off-reserve. Today, over 70% of Indigenous people live off-reserve.