Friday, January 28, 2011

The Fragile: Very brief thoughts on the Fragile Lives, Fragmented Systems report and on comments about it

"The British Columbia of equal opportunity for all children is a myth, not a reality,"
                             - Mary Turpel-Lafond, quoted in the Province
Mary Turpel-Lafond, BC's Representative for Children & Youth,  released a report yesterday.  Titled
Fragile Lives, Fragmented Systems: Strengthening Supports for Vulnerable Infants, the report examined the deaths of 21 children in care, of which 15 were Aboriginal.  I won't go into the challenges and/ or differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, that isn't important, beyond the understanding that "the mortality rate for Status Indian infants in BC is twice that of non-Aboriginal infants."  There were common themes discovered about the situations in which the infants found themselves when they died.

I am not going to summarize because I stopped reading the report.  I get these reports at the AEAC, and in my position as a special education teacher with an FN specialization, as well as my previous role as an FN case manager, I have encountered this information before.  We spend a lot of time dealing with social workers and foster parents and parents and guardians and kids from broken homes or who have never known their own home.  It is heart-breaking.  I usually get them when they are cynical and jaded, hardened to the world, or incredibly closed in.  They hide it as much as they can, but they are scared and in need of a friend.  90% of the time I am winging it when I work with these youth.  Sometimes I am able to make a connection, sometimes I can't. 

Is there a plan that will solve these challenges?  I don't know.  I know that this is why I started this blog, to try and figure out the hows and whys and, perhaps create a dialogue to seek a means through the education system.  I know there are a lot of people working very hard trying to change things in a variety of professions and on the various reserves and rural and urban spaces. 

I am lost here.

And when I read these, I feel incredibly helpless.

I am also fascinated, sort of, by the comments I read in the news articles that address issues like this.  The back and forth dialogue can sometimes be thoughtful and informative, but it can also be quite unpleasant.  There is a blame the victim mentality in some of the comments that is uncomfortable.  I am amused when the partisan nature of politics rears up and the two sides blame each other, but there is an element reserved for blaming the families caught up in the intergenerational mess that is the legacy of colonization, a belief that there is a weakness there that is responsible for the mess.  It is easy to blame people who are addicted to something, yes.  It is harder to explore the cause.  It is easy to call someone lazy because they are mired in poverty.  It is harder to find out why and/or help in some way.  I guess people can sleep better at night if they can rationalize this issue, or problem as somehow being the fault of the victim.  But however you feel about the parents or the system, how does that rationalization help the child?  That is the huge outcome of this type of rationalization, blaming the family also spills over into blaming the child.  I'm sorry kiddo, that's what you get for being born Native?  I'm sorry, next time do yourself a favour and don't be born poor?

How is this their fault? 

(My apologies for some generalizing in this post.  The challenges faced by children are very complex and the comments I have read and, sadly, neglected to link to, have been varied.  I picked up on the one thread that always seems to jump out at me.  I should have grabbed a couple of links and highlighted them for you.  Please do a search for news articles about the report and scroll down them to have a look.  Not every site had an open comment section.  After this article, there was one comment about mandatory birth control injections (?) as a way to end this problem. That was from Anonymous.)


  1. Our society has to step up and look after these poor innocents. Failure to take responsibility to make a change only embeds a cycle of poverty and abuse - an unspeakable, unconscionable state of affairs. That being said, where to begin? Where would you begin?

  2. Ew. I don't read the comments on news stories about Aboriginal people. Half of those people are trolls anyway. The other half really think that way and that's the disturbing part.

    I read newspaper articles about her report. The details are different but the story is the same. People always throw their hands up and say "what can we do?" but she makes the answer fairly clear... support policies that reduce child poverty in British Columbia.

    MCF said that the issue is that they are under-staffed. I think that they are dead wrong. The issue is that there are too many children living in poverty in BC and it is killing them.

    For the most part Turpel-Lafond is the only provincial figure consistently connecting the dots between poverty and child mortality in British Columbia. I hope that people are listening.