Right in the centre - Real help needed


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Our Canadian mainstream media should be ashamed of themselves.They are shallow, ever so shallow. There are exceptions, and while they might even resent being called mainstream, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) does some of the best work in Canada in terms of finding the facts behind the stories.

They have done some great research and stories on what has become the First Nations baby snatching industry. To listen to the mainstream media, when they in rare instances actually talk about how First Nations children are taken into care, one would wrongfully assume that most FN families are uncaring, unprepared and incompetent. APTN points out that with the now disallowed “birth alert” system, children could be taken away from mothers at birth without much basis. The children simply become part of a baby care business that has grown way out of proportion.

APTN, and most thinking people, realize that some babies are born into high risk situations, but most are not. It is highly presumptive, and racist, to assume that all, or most, babies from any group of people are disproportionately at risk.

The inherent assumptions of governments, agencies and media has to be one of the most frustrating things for identified groups of people to deal with.

Various people have suggested solutions, but the solutions are not being applied at a suitable rate of change. If a child, or a newborn baby, is truly at risk, then action has to be taken, no question. But to assume the worst serves no one well, not the child, not the parents, the family or the community.

When families are under duress, some communities have adopted a system if the cause of the duress is identified, the cause is removed. I don’t  think it is well accepted or adopted yet, but let’s assume one or both of the parents have an addiction issue. This happens in all communities and is not isolated to First Nations communities by any means. If a parent or parents with addiction issues is the problem, then why are the children removed from their home, their community and their school? Why not take the parent away and put a care worker in place? If children are seized and removed from the home, it will be damaging to the children but does it solve the problem? The allegedly addicted parent gets to stay in their own home, sleep in their own bed, be in their own community. Where’s the incentive to change?

A lot of problems could be solved with a sensible integrated approach. If children are being neglected, why not deal with the source of the neglect? We are constantly told how today’s parents may lack parenting skills. Fifty years ago, my wife and I certainly did. We were able to absorb advice and help from our parents, from friends and community and actually got a bit of advice from health officials.

I have long been of the opinion that people who are sinking into trouble, need solid advice and help. Maybe families under stress need a defender, a proctor or an adviser. What is needed is a well thought out system that crosses government departments. For example, social assistance, housing and health are administered by different departments and they don’t even have the same boundaries. A person needing help from social assistance, or housing or health, likely has to deal with at least three different departments and likely six to 10 different people. If you are a struggling parent, in a small and perhaps remote community, why or how would you ever access that help?

This column is a generalization for sure, but media and governments are doing little to actually help people and that needs to end.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.