ALBERTA

Justin Trudeau Says Alberta Foster Care Deaths Shocking, Calls For Change

01/28/2014 06:51 EST | Updated 01/28/2014 07:59 EST
CP

Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he is shocked by the high number of children who have died while in the Alberta foster care system and has called on all levels of government to deal with the issue.

In a newly released letter sent to Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman in December, Trudeau noted that the majority of deaths were of Aboriginal children.

"These deaths were preventable, and we must work to ensure that this horrific trend is reversed," he said.

"The alarming rate of deaths among Aboriginal children follows an unfortunate and all-too familiar pattern in our country, and the persistent gap in economic and social conditions for Aboriginal Peoples in Canada simply cannot be allowed to endure."

In November, theAlberta Liberals asked the prime minister for a public inquiry into the deaths of foster children after a series of Postmedia stories revealed that the province covered up the deaths of 89 foster care children since 1999.

"It is the responsibility of all levels of government to work together," said Trudeau.

"This must include ending the funding disparity for Aboriginal Child Welfare agencies, as every child deserves the same level of support, care and equality of opportunity."

Sherman echoed the sentiment, saying "The federal government has a duty to the First Nations."

"The big question is why do we have so many children in government care to begin with," he told The Huffington Post Alberta. He says improving the lives of children so they don't need government care at all is a more holistic and economical approach.

The Alberta government is holding a conference on Tuesday and Wednesday to determine how to publicly report more information on children who die in government care.

"It's a small baby step in the right direction," says Sherman, but says prevention of the deaths isn't part of the discussion.

Alberta's chief medical examiner said on Tuesday that the system was too disconnected when it comes to determining why and how children die in government care.

Dr. Anny Sauvageau said her office needs a broader mandate to examine not only the manner of death, but to propose ways to prevent similar tragedies.

With files from The Canadian Press

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