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CUPE highlights provincial cutbacks to child welfare on National Day of the Child

MOOSE FACTORY, Ont. – On November 20, National Day of the Child, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) members across Hudson and James Bay want to highlight the impact of the latest round of Ontario Liberal government cutbacks to child welfare on children and youth in First Nations and Aboriginal communities, placing them further at risk and less likely to get the services and supports they need.

Front-line children’s aid workers at Payukotayno: James & Hudson Bay Family Services will wear a blue ribbon to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In ratifying that decision, Canada promised children the right to be free of harm and to live and grow to their full potential.

“For years we have been telling the provincial government that agencies providing services to First Nations and Aboriginal communities have greater challenges as funding falls far below what is needed to provide services and supports to high-risk and remote communities, says CUPE National Representative Fran Bélanger. Just recently, Payukotayno: James & Hudson Bay Family Services, an agency charged with protecting at-risk children and youth, decided to close two receiving homes, forcing the layoff of 32 staff and moving children out of the community, further from supports for Aboriginal culture, language and heritage.”

The provincial government has cut over $42 million dollars in funding to the child welfare sector for 2012-2013, resulting in group home closures, reduced staffing levels and cuts to services and supports that help protect and care for at-risk children and youth in Ontario.

“Our goal is to highlight the impact these cuts have had on children and youth in First Nations and Aboriginal communities, added Bélanger. Layoffs have meant that staff are feeling increased pressure to do more with less. The closure of homes has raised a number of concerns as many at-risk children and youth have been removed from their community, core support groups and culture. Unless the government provides adequate funding to enable these agencies to deliver mandated supports and services, vulnerable children and youth will be put further at risk.”

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCS) have raised concerns that the government has a longstanding pattern of providing less government funding for child welfare services to First Nations children on reserves than is provided to non-Aboriginal children.

“In already under-resourced communities, with kids and families struggling with huge challenges including poverty and a lack of good jobs, the government needs to take seriously the issues First Nations and Aboriginal communities face so that at-risk children and youth receive the services and supports they need to thrive,” concluded Bélanger.

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For information:

Fran Bélanger, CUPE National Representative: (705) 262-3909

Marjorie Savoie, CUPE Communications: (613) 864-9924