OTTAWA — NDP Indigenous youth critic Charlie Angus called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday to end what he calls a "child-focused system of apartheid" in Canada.
The federal government refuses to put in place the same standards for First Nations children on reserve that any other child takes for granted, Angus said, forcing First Nations' families to place their children in provincially-operated foster care systems.
Angus' accusations are based on documents recently released to his office under the Access to Information Act.
"In extreme situations, some families living on reserve have turned to child welfare agencies to gain access to assessment and interventions required for a child with complex care needs," said 2016 Health Canada documents.
The documents say in Manitoba, an often cited example is families being unable to access the services their children need, and so they turn they children over to child welfare agencies knowing the services will be provided there.
Angus' remarks come after the federal Indigenous Services minister said this week that provinces and territories have not been at the table to the extent they need to be to address issues with First Nations child welfare.
"Clearly, Indigenous leaders are a major part of the conversation … child welfare agencies need to be part of the conversation," Philpott said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"Some of those are First Nations-led, some of them are private, some of them are connected to provinces, but the federal government is obviously very engaged on the issue, but we will not be able to address the substantial changes that need to be made if provinces and territories are not part of the conversation."
Angus countered that provinces, in fact, are picking up the tab time and time again for the care of Indigenous children who need medical, mental health and family support.
In response to Angus, Trudeau said the Liberal government is committed to addressing "oppressive" government policies and working with Indigenous communities on a path toward reconciliation.
"We feel passionately about the need to create a nation-to-nation relationship, create opportunities, to set Indigenous communities on the kind of path that they have not been on for centuries because of the oppressive policies of this place and of previous governments," he said.
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