Some people say it is clearly the “fault” of Indigenous peoples that so many indigenous children are “in care”. But even if it is true, what is the context of that “fault”? I would suggest the context is the colonial history of Canada and its powerful legacy, in which Indigenous people have been subjected to colonialism for generations in a system in which they were systematically disrespected, marginalized, and taught to disparage their own child caring abilities and self-worth, while undermining their cultures, independence, and capacity to for care for children. Children were taught that their parents were incompetent parents. It cut the bond between parents and children with immeasurable harm that flowed from generation to generation.
So the children were taken away “into care” as earlier they were taken away from their parents and put into residential schools. It really is not that different. For generations, many of the children were taken away from their parents and sent to Residential schools where indigenous youth were not allowed to speak their own language, or to participate in their own culture, while they were separated from their families. Often they were not allowed to speak to other members of the family. They were taught that their parents were not worthy parents.
As a result, the children lacked role models for parenting as a result. Therefore, later, when they in turn became parents they did not know how to be good parents. Most of us in white society had good models. We were lucky. We benefited from the system. Indigenous children were victims of that same system. At the same time, as if that rupture was not enough, in residential schools the indigenous children often suffered debilitating effects of abuse, exploitation, and resulting trauma. The results have again cascaded through the generations and all of us are paying the price for that trauma.
The modern system of putting children “in care” is not a big improvement over the residential schools. Some people even think it is worse. Often the children are not put with loving parents or family members. They are given to the custody of people who are paid to care for them. As former federal minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott said,
“This is very much reminiscent of the residential school system where children are being scooped up from their homes, taken away from their family and we will pay the price for this for generations to come.”
This is not what commonly happens to white children. White children are treated differently in the system than indigenous children. That is what a racist system is all about. It exists. It is real. But many whites don’t see it. We don’t see our own racism. We take for granted a system that benefits us. It seems natural. It is not.