Child welfare should always come above politics

Blog, Aboriginal Futures, Joseph Quesnel

The Manitoba NDP government should be praised for its decision to appoint an interim administrator over the Southern First Nations Network of Care, an umbrella organization overseeing 10 aboriginal child and family service agencies.

Family Services Minister Jennifer Howard announced that deputy minister Jeff Parr would serve as interim administrator.

This decision was likely not taken lightly and was only done to serve the interests of the children under Southern Authority’s mandate.

Leadership problems and board conflicts have compromised the ability of the organization to keep its eye on the ball, which in this instance is the welfare and safety of the children under its care.

No one wants to take this drastic action, but it was necessary. The board was down to one member as the terms for other appointees had expired.

The problems stem from decisions by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) to appoint five elected chiefs onto the board. However, the Authority’s own bylaws prohibits chiefs and councillors from sitting on the board.

But, as I’ve argued before, there are many non-politicized aboriginal appointments the AMC could recommend to sit on the board. Those appointments could also be qualified aboriginal people who are proficient in child and family services.

Just like on reserve (or any government), politics should be separate from service delivery and administration. Both serve different interests and have different incentives.

Especially where vulnerable individuals are involved, as in the case of child and family services, the focus should be on their welfare first. This can also happen when the overriding focus becomes placing aboriginal children in indigenous homes, no matter the cost. But, if that family is not prepared to take care of that child, it should not matter what their background is, the child should not be placed there.

It is unfortunate how in that case and in the case of the Southern Authority, identity politics and cultural sensitivity trumped good policy for a long time. It’s nice to see good policy trump for a change.

Now, the work will be helping the Southern Authority clean itself up to stand on its own.