Children in Care


One of the scandals of Canadian society is the number of indigenous children in care in Canada. “In care” means that the children have been taken away from their parents on the basis that the parents are unfit to care for their children. In other words those children are taken from their parents and given over to foster parents, or in some cases, civil servants who take them to hotels. Often those children are taken to homes where they are not loved or even “cared” for. They are just there.

Of course sometimes this is necessary. It can happen to white parents and it can happen to indigenous parents. It should be rare. For white children and their parents it is rare. For indigenous children and their parents it is not rare.

About 50% of the total children in care are indigenous children! In a country where 4.9% of people in Canada self-identified as aboriginal in the last census that is an astonishing proportion of the children in care. in other words the rate of indigenous children in care is 10 times what one would expect based on population! More than 40,000 indigenous children are currently “in care” in Canada. This is more than the number of indigenous children were put into Residential schools.

Another shocking fact is that 25% of these indigenous children in care are in Manitoba. A small province like Manitoba has a quarter of the indigenous children in care.

Another surprising statistic is that 4% of indigenous children in care who are suffering from mental illness receive no treatment for their illness.

According to the former federal minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott, “The disproportionate number of Indigenous children currently in the child welfare system has created a “humanitarian crisis” in the country.”

Minster Philpott sent a letter to her provincial and territorial counterparts calling for “an emergency meeting” on indigenous children and family services. CBC News reported on it this way:

We are facing a humanitarian crisis in this country where Indigenous children are vastly disproportionately over-represented in the child welfare system,” said Philpott in an interview Thursday with Power & Politics.

Philpott said in Manitoba, there are a total of 11,000 children in care and 10,000 are Indigenous children. Statistics Canada census data released last week revealed 4,300 Indigenous children under the age of four are currently in foster care.”


Here is another shocking statistic from Stats Canada: Aboriginal children accounted for 7.7% of all children aged 0 to 4, and about one‑half of all foster children in this age group.

 Think about these stats for a second. What do they signify? Such facts cannot possibly be explained on the basis of racist individuals. Such stark facts speak of a vast system of racism. In Manitoba 10 out of 11 children taken away form their parents and put “in care” are indigenous children. More than 90%. Too often where nobody actually cares about them.

2 thoughts on “Children in Care

  1. barrister newfield

    for purposes of comparison……
    new york city – population 8.5 million, foster care population 8,300.
    manitoba – population 1.3+ million, foster care population 11,000.

    in other words manitoba total population adjusted for comparison to total nyc population would mean an “equivalent” foster care population in sunny manitoba of 75,000+, or a stunningly increased rate in comparison.

    no doubt, as 1st nation peoples throughout the humane country of canada have said repeatedly, this stinks and reflects ongoing racism ala the residential school debacle among many other things.
    on the other hand, this also reflects, in part, the stunning degradation of some 1st nation people’s environments, societies, mores, conditions,etc.

    we need not be polyannish guilty liberals here. the reason that racism sucks is because it damages and destroys, as in morbidity and morality.

    one of the particular points of concern is pregnancy and widespread chemical ab/mis/use which has a nasty impact on neurological “hard wiring” and presents an organic vulnerability situated within a social disaster that includes too much sexual abuse and domestic violence; ultimately leading to intrauterine exposure to multiple chemicals.

    nobody should be deluded here. to fix this will require a truly monumental effort, a sort of marshall plan, that will shock even liberals.
    and i do not see anybody in the religious, political, social advocacy, or any other community willing to put forth that kind of effort at this moment.

    as much as canadians have done to rectify the ongoing results of the original genocidal catastrophe they have not yet scratched the surface.
    the country cannot even guarantee something as fundamental as clean drinking water in a significant number of communities in the far north.

    i know of a situation well known to my family where a woman with very serious chronic mental illness was allowed to accept a 1st nations child with severe chronic illness into her care and summarily murdered the child.
    this is not normative of course, but it does shine a light on the fact that with the massively increased rates of 1st nations foster care you also get garbage, at times even deadly, foster care.

    one more thing….in yanqui land as a result of the civil rights movement there was an effort made to place african american and latino children in african american and latino foster homes via african american and latino community based foster care agencies.
    this is indeed appropriate, but it is by no means sufficient. there is plenty of ambiguity in this history. the community based agencies did not have the sufficient resources, the technical support to be really successful.

    it should also be said that as an alternative to foster care children can be kept with their parent/s with the provision of preventive services. these efforts are almost inevitably poorly funded and are very often less than professional, whether community based or not.

    truth be told, there is shocking scarcity of scientific guidance on which to base prevention of neglect and abuse no matter what child welfare professionals try to say and no matter how much money you throw at it.

    finally and obviously if you are paying attention, foster care placement may well be the major indicator for subsequent mental illness, substance abuse, incarceration, etc.

    in the most narrow sense, pay now, pay later, but you will pay up.
    there is no free lunch.

  2. That comparison with New York City is stunning. I knew things were bad here, but that is still shocking! And 90% of the children in “care” are indigenous! More than all the children in NYC. How can friends of mine (and intelligent people) deny that we have a system of racism in Manitoba/Canada? I was not aware of the chemical issues and find that very interesting. I agree that the task is “monumental.” I also suspect there is not yet a widespread political will to do the hard, long, and relentless work that will be needed. A “Marshall Plan” is indeed a good analogy. There has been an effort in Canada as well to keep indigenous children with indigenous families those inviting families may need support. You raise MANY thought-provoking points. Finally, I agree we will pay. The arc of justice is long and it will bend.

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