Dilico Strike Impacts Families

Dilico
Dilico workers are sitting down on the picket line.

Dilico
Dilico offices on Fort William First Nation

THUNDER BAY – Editorial – About 350 Dilico Childcare workers are on the picket lines. The workers and management could not come to an agreement over a new contract. Left on the sidelines are the families that the child care service is supposed to be focused on helping. The families who are in effect broken apart are now facing long delays in seeing their children. In fact sources tell NNL that there are six hundred children in Dilico care, and that some of those children have been shipped out across the province into temporary care during the strike.

The voices during any labour dispute are often those of striking unions and management. 

Forgotten are the Families

Dilico
Striking worker on the line at Dilico

Sources tell NetNewsLedger that in many ways before the job action started Monday, that ‘family action’ started last week. Parents seeking visits to children last week were being pushed off into this week. Even though there was not any case workers who would be on duty.

The problem for many was that many of the people who have to deal with Dilico are already facing hardships, and having the hope of visiting with their families removed makes it really hard to make progress. One mother attempting to see her baby was told on Thursday that her case worker was on holidays.

Dilico
Dilico workers are sitting down on the picket line.

It is possible that the strike may not last all that long, many Dilico workers are not financially prepared for a long strike and unless the union is prepared to step up and support them, the potential action will be very difficult for the striking case workers. However the fifty managers could likely take on the task of dealing with the cases. 

Dilico case workers are complaining that their high case loads are leading to both poor child care, and poor service delivery. Families are countering that there are far larger issues.

Advocates for children in care are saying that in many cases “The bar is set so high, that no parent can achieve it”. That leads to increased hopelessness.

One single mother, whose children are in Dilico care has been denied access to even a visit to her children. There were charges laid against the mother in that case, which were later withdrawn. Instead of working toward helping the woman, in many cases the actions of Dilico in their approach has been to increase her suffering, and driving the woman deeper into a pit of depression and alcoholism. 

There are many issues that are not on the table, but are impacting the families who are clients of Dilico. That should be the real issue here. Many believe that there are currently more children being taken into care now than during the ‘Sixties Scoop’ or even during the residential schools era in Northwestern Ontario.

One grandmother relayed to NNL that last Thursday, Dilico took her grandchildren into their custody, claiming that although she has been caring for them for the past five years, that all of a sudden she is an unfit care provider. Another grandmother has relayed that several Dilico staff members attended her place of work to attempt to ‘push her around’ over visitation issues with her grandchildren.

Five Workers to One Manager

Dilico has a very high ratio of management to staff, there are 55 management positions. There are three hundred and fifty staff positions. The striking workers, many who are claiming on their Facebook pages, and on a strike handout to be in this job action for the children. 

However forgotten in this job action are the parents and grandparents. Only court ordered visitation is going to be allowed, and currently many families are faced with the struggle of seemingly being left aside.

What is also apparent is that the issue of the estimated 900 children in the care of Dilico, is that in many cases the needed actions and support for parents to be re-united with their children is not being fully achieved. A number of instances have relayed to NNL where parents are being asked to sign papers giving their children to Dilico for care that are not the papers that the parent is being told they are about.

The issue is one sources tell NNL that requires perhaps for First Nations to step up and look into. The reality one parent stated, speaking under condition of not having her name published is that “First Nation children fund Dilico”. Some parents are going so far as to suggest that Dilico workers should face the same alcohol and drug testing that they often have clients doing. 

The goal here should be uniting families, putting mothers and children, and grandmothers and grandchildren back together.

That effort appears lost here in what appears a labour dispute where both sides have forgotten the children.

James Murray

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