Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs: Newborn apprehensions detrimental to baby and mother

Assembly of Manitoba Grand Chief Arlen Dumas
Assembly of Manitoba Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

Treaty One Territory, MB – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has become aware that there are imminent newborn baby apprehensions that are continuing to happen in Winnipeg.
Birth alerts are placed on mothers suspected of not being able to care for their babies. Birth alert apprehensions are being carried out according to policy standards, not law. This is clearly disastrous and detrimental to the newborn, mother and family.

“To have a newborn baby taken away in the manner they are being apprehended is alarming. Our children are sacred. They are a gift from Creator. We are all responsible for the raising of our children and ensuring their well-being, nurturing, identity, culture, language and way of being is provided,” said Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

In December 2017, the AMC passed a resolution opposing Manitoba’s Child Welfare System Reform and a resolution for the restoration of First Nations jurisdiction over families and children.

“Our newborns and children must be provided care and nurturing in a home that is culturally appropriate. When Child and Family Services sweeps in and takes the baby, First Nations do not have the opportunity to provide these things for our children. Immediate family placements must be the first priority of placement for a newborn that will accommodate access for the mother to breastfeed,” said Grand Chief Dumas.

Last summer, the Manitoba government unilaterally amended its Child and Family Services Act to include customary care, where an Indigenous child would stay within the Indigenous community. However, last week even though arrangements had been made with a family member to transfer guardianship of a newborn baby, the baby was still taken away from the mother. Sadly, even though the province’s approach to customary care should have prevented the apprehension, it still took place.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs continues to assert that First Nations have inherent jurisdiction over their children and families. In October this position was further supported by the AMC Chiefs-in-Assembly when it endorsed Bringing Our Children Home Act: A Manitoba Specific Federal Legislation for Children and Families. This draft federal legislation will be implemented as an overarching Manitoba-specific federal legislation that will empower original jurisdiction and give effect to the creation of the five template First Nations laws on children and families. Placing a newborn with immediate family is the first consideration if a mother or father or both are unable to care for the newborn or child. Only if they cannot look after the child would then an alternative placement within the Nation would be the second choice.

Grand Chief Dumas concluded: “With the ongoing issue of newborn apprehensions, it is imperative now more than ever to work swiftly to fundamentally change the system that so adversely affects our families and children. Right now is the opportune time for the province of Manitoba to finally end its destructive policies of apprehending First Nations newborns and children. It is also a time to better train frontline workers to recognize and understand the system. They need to do better, and instead of taking our babies away from us, they need to work with us to keep our families together.”