Child and Youth Advocate releases mandatory reviews concerning 18 young people
March 28, 2023
Edmonton…The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate (OCYA) released reviews into the circumstances of 18 young people who passed away between April 1, 2022 and September 30, 2022.
This mandatory report is the largest the office has released.
“This report highlights the importance of promoting the well -being of children and families to help reduce these tragic outcomes so that young people have the brightest possible futures. Well-being encompasses safety and security, supportive and nurturing relationships, and a sense of belonging within family, community, and culture. This is increasingly important for young people involved with Child Intervention Services because they are more likely to have had traumatic experiences and their connections disrupted.”
Terri Pelton, Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate
Pelton notes the OCYA continues to receive notifications about a large number of young people dying from drug-related causes. Of significant concern, this crisis is impacting younger children. In this report, the youngest was 13 years old when she passed away from drug toxicity. The Advocate has repeatedly called for urgent action to implement a youth opioid and substance use strategy to address the ongoing and tragic loss of young lives to drug toxicity.
“The disproportionate number of Indigenous youth dying, related to addictions, has a direct link to the loss of traditional ways of knowing and access to ceremony. Indigenous populations have traditional ways of capacity building and maintaining healthy communities. We need to invest in sustainable pathways back to community to stop this epidemic.”
Dr. Lana Potts, Medical Director Aisokinaki Clinic, Piikani Nation
There remain concerns for Indigenous young people’s ability to receive services and supports and remain connected to their family, community, and culture. Child-serving systems continue to be over-involved in the lives of Indigenous young people and their families. In this report, 14 of the 18 children and youth were Indigenous.
The Advocate is making two recommendations related to ensuring Indigenous young people in care are meaningfully connected to their families, community, and culture to promote their overall well-being:
- The Ministry of Children’s Services should examine the connections for each Indigenous child in the care of the Director, and identify tailored actions that build and strengthen connections with their family, community, and culture.
- The Ministry of Children’s Services should publicly report on summary
findings from their examination of all Indigenous children and their unique connections to their families, communities, and cultures within 12 months and provide ongoing annual updates.
Cultural connection is an intrinsic right of Indigenous peoples under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is critically important that these rights are upheld.
“I believe if the recommendations of the Child and Youth Advocate are followed fully, there would be a noticeable difference in these tragic statistics, not just in the lives of those lost, but in the lives of those who live. My work involves serving the Indigenous community in its entire life spectrum from babies to seniors and we are often addressing historical trauma as part of the work to get folks housed, employed, parenting, educated all while often dealing with systems that are intrusive and not considerate of the importance of connection to culture and community being the very thing that will net better outcomes in all areas of their life and lifespan.”
Cheryl Whiskeyjack, Executive Director, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society
A copy of the reviews is available here: ocya.alberta.ca/adult/publications/investigative-review/.
The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate is an independent office of the Legislature of Alberta.
We stand up for young people.
Office of the Child and Youth Advocate of Alberta
C: 780-499-3601; firstname.lastname@example.org