UBCIC Calls for Province to Expand Existing Services for Children and Youth with Special Needs; Pause on Family Connection Centres

Press Release

((Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh)/Vancouver, B.C. – May 16, 2022) On May 12, 2022 the Government of British Columbia took an additional step toward dismantling existing services for children with disabilities, including in particular individualized funding for children with autism, when it announced requests for proposals to run new “Family Connection Centres”. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) rejects British Columbia steamrolling Indigenous families, and all families of children with disabilities by trying to impose a centralized, MCFD-controlled system of services for children with disabilities without proper consultation, co-operation, or consent.

British Columbia’s reckless and harmful policy shift has been developed in violation of the requirement of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. No consultation, co-operation, or free, prior, and informed consent has taken place with First Nations. In addition, families of all backgrounds from across British Columbia, are outraged and concerned by the lack of consultation, and the additional suffering and burdens this change will impose on vulnerable children.   Experts have called the proposed changes “discriminatory” and “unscientific”.  While British Columbia claims it did “consultation” in 2019, that consultation was not on this specific proposal, was not with First Nations, and does not come close to meeting the basic standards of the UN Declaration.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC President, stated “First Nations know better than any population that centralizing services for children in government-controlled institutions is dangerous, destructive, and even deadly. The approach of British Columbia doubles-down on a long history of arrogant and broken government approaches to caring for vulnerable children.  Despite the Province not being compliant with the framework of free, prior and informed consent confirmed in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, it carries on with implementing its half-baked and subsequently harmful approach. While British Columbia says it will now design an approach with First Nations, the only proper way to do that is to stop the implementation of the new approach while that engagement takes place. Failing to do this will just mean that Indigenous children, like other children, will lose existing services in violation of their human rights, while the required, co-developed approach that respects their human rights is still being designed. This is wrong.”

“British Columbia’s announcement of RFP on May 12 only deepened concerns that had already arisen when the 2022 budget was released and no new funding was allocated to address the existing wait-lists and significant increase in number of children and services that are to be provided through the proposed ‘family connection centres’” stated Chief Don Tom, UBCIC Vice-President. “Based on the Request for Proposals, experts are saying the government’s apparent plan is to stop providing therapies to children individually and provide most services in group settings.  In other words, to simply provide less, and less effective, therapies to children.”

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, UBCIC Secretary-Treasurer concluded, “Children with disabilities need more and better services. Not less. Our children are distinct and diverse and must be treated as individuals like everyone else who requires health and therapy. It is not for government to say a certain group of vulnerable people, because of their disabilities, must primarily get help in group settings.  What other group of people are told health and therapy services will be provided in this way?  There is a vitally important goal that is being pursued by government – providing services to all children with disabilities, ending waitlists, and meeting the needs of children. We all support this.  But nothing in the government’s current plan – which is largely a retread of approaches by conservative governments in other jurisdictions – will meet this goal.  And certainly, it will not achieve it when it has been designed without proper engagement of First Nations and all those impacted.”

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Media inquiries:

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, 250-490-5314
Chief Don Tom, Vice-President, 250-813-3315
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer, c/o 778-866-0548

UBCIC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

For more information, please visit www.ubcic.bc.ca

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