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Vulnerable Lives Matter

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  • The time has come for the NDP government to step up and protect young vulnerable lives in our province.
  • There’s a gap a mile wide between NDP spin and NDP action when it comes to foster kids in Manitoba.

The time has come for the NDP government to step up and protect young vulnerable lives in our province. For the past few weeks we have been inundated with horrific headlines about Child and Family Services:

Manitoba teen still in coma after attack; uncle blames child welfare system  (CTV News, April 16)

Social worker registration loophole slammed by Phoenix Sinclair inquiry head (CBC News, April 7)

Winnipeg mom says son under CFS care ‘being left to rot’ (CBC News, March 23) 

Lack of foster spots keep Manitoba kids in jail (The Globe and Mail, April 14)

Four weeks, four entirely different horrific events under the watch of Child and Family Services as reported in the media. When it was reported this week by the Children’s Advocate that young offenders are having to spend more time incarcerated because CFS has not made placements available, this was the response from the Minister’s office:

“Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross declined to be interviewed. Her spokesperson, Rachel Morgan, said in an e-mailed statement that children in custody have “complex needs and require appropriate placements to meet those needs.” (Canadian Press, April 14)

But this week, while the minister was ducking important questions about why a lack of placements was keeping kids in jail cells, she did find time for this cute NDP photo-op:

Let’s contrast that against her response when it was learned that a young girl in CFS’s jurisdiction was brutally assaulted in a downtown parking lot:

“I’m saddened and outraged by this cowardly attack on a vulnerable child,” she said, fighting back tears. “It is infuriating that there are people out there that would prey upon an innocent child.” (The Canadian Press)

One wants really wants to believe that the minister’s tears were genuine and that she truly was “appalled” by what took place. But there’s a gap a mile wide between what the minister says in front of TV cameras and what she does behind closed doors. From a legislative perspective, one of the most shocking revelations was how the Minister Irvin-Ross, Premier Selinger and the NDP brass have been deliberately undermining Ted Hughes findings in the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry.

In his report, Hughes recommended that social workers be required to be regulated through registration with an official professional body like the College of Physicians or the Manitoba Law Society. The Manitoba College of Social Workers was put in place and the NDP had created the auspices of following Ted Hughes recommendations.

Remember, this was an inquiry into the the violent, brutal murder of Phoenix Sinclair, a 5-year-old little girl while under the jurisdiction of Child and Family Services. The prevailing narrative from Premier Selinger, Attorney General Andrew Swan and ministers Irvin-Ross, Howard and Makintosh was that this inquiry was called to honour Phoenix’s legacy and to take every step to make sure that such a tragedy never happened again.

And yet just weeks after the brutal assault of a young girl who was left with little supervision at a downtown hotel – the same downtown hotel  Tina Fontaine went missing from – we learn that the NDP deliberately gamed the system, creating loopholes so the vast majority of social workers employed by CFS remain completely unregulated. In fact, according to the Winnipeg Free Press of the 478 social workers who are directly employed by the province, only 45 of them are actually regulated by the province. So NDP ministers like Kerri Irvin-Ross care enough about the quality of life of little girls like Tina Fontaine and Phoenix Sinclair enough to provide a compelling quote to the newspaper – but not enough to put easy safeguards in place to protect their lives – like regulating social workers.

It’s time for Premier Selinger, Minister Irvin-Ross and the rest of the NDP leadership to step up and show that they care about these kids. For 16 years they have refused to take any meaningful action to keep these kids out of hotels, to stop housing them in jails, to protect them from violence – or murder. This government has failed to honour Phoenix Sinclair legacy and to send the message the lives of vulnerable kids – and all kids – matter.

Because the message from Broadway is loud and clear: Political expediency matters more to the NDP than these young, predominantly Aboriginal lives and this is truly repugnant.

Dave Shorr

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