BCLI Reflects on the Protection of Indigenous Children
1 June 2021
By Karen Campbell
BCLI Executive Director
And Emily Clough, Chair, BCLI Board
The BCLI has been reflecting on the news last week that the remains of 215 children were found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, on the lands of the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. The laws of British Columbia and Canada allowed for the creation of residential schools that separated children from their families. The last residential school in Canada closed in 1996.
Six years ago, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its findings and its Calls to Action. The TRC explored and recognized that many children died and were buried at these schools. The TRC Calls to Action are clear – there are six specific items under the heading “Missing Children and Burial Information”. Among other things, these calls ask that the federal government, coroners, vital statistics agencies, Indigenous communities, former students, and churches work to find records and establish registries so that we can pay respects, mourn lost children and better understand the scope of impacts of these laws and policies.
This particular incident came to light 2 days after we released 2 publications that are intended to improve child welfare and child protection laws in BC. The Study Paper on Youth Aging into the Community and the Report on Modernizing the Child, Family and Community Service Act address issues related to youth aging out of care and reforms to enhance safeguards for children and families in child-protection laws. These reports recognize that Indigenous children and youth experience poorer outcomes, particularly upon leaving the care system, and that this situation warrants special attention.
BCLI projects are intended to work toward deep and systemic improvements in our laws. Our approach is to bring collaborators together to clarify and improve the law, develop just and innovative solutions, and increase access to justice.
BC has passed legislation to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The UN Declaration is a human rights instrument that contains express and special protections for children. BC’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act invites innovative thinking to advance justice for Indigenous peoples. As BCLI works to recommend reforms to legal frameworks, we are committed to find new approaches for all of our projects so that our work supports justice for everyone, including Indigenous peoples and communities.