Métis Commission for Children and Families of BC
"Advancing transformative change for the well-being of Métis children, youth and families"
METIS COMMISSION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES OF BC (MCCFBC): Response to the Alex Gervais Report
On Monday February 6, 2017 the Representative for Children and Youth of British Columbia (RCY) released Broken Promises: Alex’s Story about the failings of the child welfare system to support a Métis young man crying out for help and support. Alex took his life after a life of systemic neglect ending in desperation.
As a Métis community we are grieving Alex’s death and feeling helpless that we did not know that he was out there needing us- his Metis community. We now wonder how more Alex’s are suffering silently, hoping to be saved.
MCCFBC Board President Ferne Strain “It was disturbing and heartbreaking to read about Alex’s life while in foster care; the system ignored family who had a relationship with Alex and wanted him. Every child needs a person in their life who loves them and helps them through their struggles. It is tragic and unacceptable that Alex was left in a hotel by himself when the money could have been used to connect him to people who wanted him.”
The RCY reflects on the importance of Identity:
Despite existing legislation, standards and policy mandating that Indigenous children in care be connected to their culture in a meaningful and consistent way, Alex’s cultural identity was largely ignored by his 23 social workers and caregivers during the 11 years that he was in the care of the provincial government. Had Alex been given a real opportunity to develop a strong cultural identity and a feeling of belonging with his Métis community, the outcome for him may well have been different.
"We will not stop looking towards a future when each of our sacred children are connected to their Métis culture. The loss of Alex is more than unacceptable, it has illustrated a broken part of a system designed to keep children from harm. The connection to Métis culture is a permanent, unbreakable connection for our children and is a foundational right that supports their survival in the child welfare system. In time our children will be cared for by their own, but until then we continue to move forward against challenges, until that connection to culture is provided to each and every one of our Métis children in care." Stephanie Konefall, MCCFBC Board Vice President.
This report along with too many others indicate that it is time for the Métis Community to assert itself in caring for its children within the Provincial Child Welfare system. We have started the process for initiating a provincial plan to increase services to Métis children in the care of the Director of the Ministry for Children and Family Services and Delegated agencies, which we will deliver March 31, 2017. We will work with our provincial Métis and MCFD partners, Métis Elders and community members to define a level of service that works for Métis children and families like Alex’s.
We are committed to working towards a strategy and framework that is supportive, cultural and conscientious. The Métis are ready to serve their own. We will not let the lives and passing of Alex Gevais or Nicholas Lang be forgotten. Their lives will propel all of us to do better.
We thank the Acting Representative Bernard Richard and his team for the care and attention that they have put towards this report. The respect and due diligence for Alex’s life was evident throughout the report.
If you wish offer support or find out how you might help Métis youth in your area please contact us at the Metis Commission for Children and Youth of British Columbia. 1-877-606-3847
The Metis Commission for Children and Families of BC is the legislated aboriginal community under the Child Family Community Services Act of BC to be notified of all Metis children and youth under the care of the Director of Child Welfare. We attend court, track files, contribute to policy and adoption work and offer Métis specific cultural support to Social Workers and community members. Currently there are over 800 Métis children under the care of the MCFD.
December 2015 Newsletter (please click here to access our December newsletter)
2014-2015 Annual General Report Booklet
Please click here to access our 2014-2015 Annual General Report Booklet
Métis Resource Booklet for Social Workers
What does the Métis Commission for Child and Families of British Columbia do?
The MCCFBC is in place to represent the Métis community at times when Métis families and their children become involved in the provincial child welfare system (MCFD or a Delegated Child Welfare agency). It is legislated that all court documents related to these children be sent to MCCFBC for review and involvement.
Frequently asked questions:
1. Can I as a Métis parent or grandparent get support from the Métis Commission? Yes, you can call either 250-372-8688 or 1-877-606-3847. Support staff are available to go over your file with you, explain the child welfare process, make inquiry calls on your behalf and at times attend court as a voice for the children and the Métis community.
2. Will you help me get my kids back? The Métis Commission for Children and Families for BC firmly believes that a child is best raised within their family and their community. At times families struggle and need support. We will help you to understand what MCFD is worried about as well as where you might find the support you need. We will walk you through any questions you have about the Child welfare system or court procedures in BC. We will help you make a plan to present to your social worker. We will refer you to places in your community where support for Métis people is offered.
3. When does the Métis Commission appear in court? The Métis Commission for Children and Families of BC reviews all court documents and follows all cases as they move through the court system. At times we identify areas of court documents where parts of the official process have been missed or where children or the Métis community are not being offered a time for their plans to be heard. At times Social workers are asking for a third party in the courtroom to present more options for the children. At times the Commission acts a mediator when cases become stuck and no one knows how to talk to each other anymore. MCCFBC is not in a position at this time to go to court in every situation but can monitor and make court submissions in writing where necessary.
4. I am a relative or an adoptive parent of a Métis child, can you help me with ideas to raise them in a Métis cultural way? Yes, we have a wealth of research and Métis cultural material that we are willing to share and send to you. We have cultural kits for different age ranges that we can send to you. There are also links on our website to videos, books and Métis Community services in BC.
5. Can you help our Social Worker to understand why being acknowledged as Métis is so important to us? Although, it can be difficult to share a cultural feeling, we will certainly do our best. Educating is the majority of our work. We have up to date research on why identity is important for children and ways to acknowledge someone’s Métis heritage.
6. Can I get services if I do not have a Métis card? Yes, anyone identifying as a Métis person can be served through the Métis Commission at anytime. If you are interested in researching your roots we can refer you to several organizations that can help you.
7. If my child is being adopted how can I make sure that they know they are Métis? You can ask to be part of the adoption planning. MCCFBC is also part of the planning through the Provincial Adoptions Exception Committee and connected to Permanency planning teams throughout BC. We ensure that there is a Métis specific plan attached to each child’s records.
8. I am Métis but I do not know how to get connected to my Métis community. MCCFBC tries its best to keep an up to date list of Métis specific organizations throughout the province. We also collect event information and post it to our website as we find it. Most communities or regions of the province have a Métis association that holds dinners and fun events.
9. I am a Social worker with a Métis child on my caseload and I would like to offer them and their foster parents’ ideas on a Métis supported upbringing. Can I call MCCFBC for support in my practice? Yes, we are here to help. We have examples of best practice in serving Métis children from across the province that we can share with you. We have samples of care plans, safety plans, cultural plans and more. You are a major factor in returning/connecting children to their community as soon as possible. Let us support you.
10. What is the difference between the Métis Commission for Children and Families and the Métis Nation or Métis Federation of British Columbia. The Métis Commission is the legislated body that oversees Métis children who are under court order with the MCFD Director throughout the province of BC.
The Métis Nation and Métis Federation are political bodies who offer advocacy and support to their constituents throughout the province on Métis specific issues and future planning.
Recently a Métis child case has been brought before the courts and media, below is the media release regarding this situation:
The Métis Commission for Children and Families of British Columbia acts as the aboriginal community legislated under the Child, Family and Community Services Act in this province. As the official apolitical Métis authority acting on behalf of Métis children experiencing the child protection services system in BC we have been involved with this case for some time now.
We hold a seat on the Adoptions Exception Committee in this province, which means we take great care to consider the best interests of each aboriginal child brought before us for placement decisions. We have taken this situation under careful review and know what is at stake for the potential options for this young Métis child. It is our view that a placement with biological family (siblings) and preserving their family bond is one form of keeping the Métis community in tact.
A culture plan has been worked on for several months to ensure that the Métis community remains involved in this child's life. We are thankful for the care that this young child has received to date while these arrangements were being made.
The Métis Commission for Children and Families of BC would like to see MCFD put measures in place to ensure that these placements are completed in a more timely manner in order to avoid situations like we are seeing in court this week.
What’s up at the Commission?
A number of people have sent in messages wondering what is happening at the Commission. It seems that in our hard work to get the Métis Commission back on track we have been a little too quiet.
As many know, the Métis Commission for Children and Families of BC has gone through a major transition over the past year. These transitions have included a new board, new Executive Director and a re-organization. The Commission is now run with 2 full time staff, a contracted half time Executive Director and a contract for finance.
Staff – Eva Coles – Executive Director (1/2 time, office hours in Kamloops and East Kootenays)
Ashley – Cultural Safety Worker
Lesley – Administrative Support
The board of Directors for the society is made up of four very dedicated Métis professionals who meet voluntarily every two to three weeks. They have completely renewed the HR policies, participated in good governance training, attended provincial meetings, created a strategic plan and made difficult decisions to make significant budget cuts.
Ferne Strain – President
Agda Neumann – Vice President
Colleen Fines – Secretary Treasurer
Kim Bayer – Commissioner at Large
**The Board of Commissioners is now going through a process for recruiting new Commissioners as two Commissioners will be retiring later in 2015. By 2016 the board is committed to having a total of 5 board members who are apolitical and focused on the welfare of Métis children.
Budget and Mandate:
A major change has been the budget and mandate. Due to MCFD changing its focus away from capacity building in aboriginal communities to only direct service contracts MCCFBC has experienced severe cut backs to its contract. MCCFBC now operates with under half of its former budget (now $356,000).
The budget for 2014/15 MCCFBC was balanced with a very slight surplus. Thanks to staff and board members for all of their hard work and sacrifice.
MANDATE: Working with Métis families that are entering the child protection court system is not a new part of the mandate but it has now become the number one concentration. So what does this mean?
Other work the Commission is doing: