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Where the Monster Now Lives

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,

With heavy hearts, we continue the discussion on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's five Calls to Action on child welfare. While many special reports have been written, inquiries led, and roadmaps created, Indigenous children in care remain in staggering and tragic numbers.

It is a devastating statistic and one that feels all the more heartbreaking when considered in light of Indigenous teachings. As Lana Whiskeyjack shared, "children are the most sacred bundle we will ever hold – so grandmothers teach us to carry this gift of Creator in the most kind and loving way."[1]

This quote weighs heavily as we look at the effects on our children and how systemic inequalities and intergenerational injustices have brought us to this point. It is an assault on both our children and our grandparents. So few of our Indigenous families have been left untouched by the legacies of, and ongoing, colonization.

Even though only one in ten children in Alberta is Indigenous, they make up 69% of those in the child welfare system.[2] Métis children are approximately six times as likely to be in care and First Nations children are over 30 times as likely than their non-Indigenous peers.[3] In addition, once Indigenous children come into care they are more likely to find themselves in contact with the system again, stay in care longer, and are less likely to be returned to their families than their non-Aboriginal peers. It is clear from these statistics that the child welfare system is not serving Indigenous children, their families, or communities in a just and equitable way.

But the statistics are also people; the children, parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, and community members who live these numbers in a real and tangible way.

For the child welfare system did not appear haphazardly, nor does it exist in isolation. The system, which was created within a colonial framework, ignoring the Indigenous knowledge-based systems that thrived prior to contact, was put in place alongside genocidal and assimilative institutions such as Residential Schools. The inequities and systemic racism that created the issues so often found in the child welfare system were created by these institutions themselves.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission which placed the calls to action surrounding child welfare first on the list, brought attention to this ongoing issue. By asking governments of all levels to educate themselves on the history and impacts of residential schools and prompting them to look at appropriate solutions to healing outside of the dominant culture, the Calls to Action not only recognize how the imposition of a Eurocentric child welfare system has had devastating effects on Indigenous peoples for decades.[4] It also requires us to look at expanding, reconsidering, or dismantling the system to elevate Indigenous ways of knowing legal traditions and community systems.

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission outlined, It is not enough for us to recognize the harms. We must create space for solutions outside of the very systems that created it. Bill C-92 and the adoption of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) are a start.

But as the system continues to fail children, it’s time for Indigenous people to decide where we go next.

Until next time,


[1] Nindibaajimomim (2018), online: Lana Whiskeyjack: <>.

[2] Alberta, Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, Voices for Change, Aboriginal Child Welfare in Alberta: A Special Report (Edmonton: Office of the Child and Youth Advocate Alberta, 2016) at online (pdf): <>.

[3] Alberta, Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, Voices for Change, Aboriginal Child Welfare in Alberta: A Special Report (Edmonton: Office of the Child and Youth Advocate Alberta, 2016) at online (pdf): <>.

[4] Canada, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Calls to Action(Winnipeg: Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 2012) at online (pdf): <>.


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