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 to offer support or find out how you might help Métis youth in your area please contact us at the Métis Commission for Children and Families of British Columbia at 1-877-606-3847.
The Métis 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 Métis 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.