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Tom Rees | Criminal Defence Lawyer Winnipeg

Manitoba Apprehends More than 300 Newborns a Year


The Huffington Post is reporting that Manitoba apprehends approximately one newborn a day on average. The Article gives a negative review of Manitoba’s track record for child services with respect to indigenous families.

Manitoba has one of the highest apprehension rates in Canada, said Morgan, who added the seizures are as damaging as Indian residential schools. The longer a child is in care, the more complex the child’s needs become, she said.

As a youth defence lawyer in Winnipeg, I see both sides of this issue. I’ve worked with young people who were apprehended at birth. My experience is that these young people suffer from a number of issues that have a significant effect on their ability to function. They talk about having no family, but instead workers who work with them but don’t love them. They talk about navigating the foster system and feeling worthless, or of less value than their non-foster counter parts. They don’t have a stable home and can be moved to a new family without notice, or without their input. They often talk about being powerless and feeling hopeless.

On the flip side, I work with young women who have had their children apprehended. The emotional impact on these young women is devastating. I’ve witnessed my clients go into deep depression, or turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their loss. These young women are not always permitted to visit their babies, and the apprehended newborns often aren’t placed with family so that the new mother has access to them.

The Huffington Post Article goes on to say:

Ian Wishart, a critic with the Opposition Conservatives, said it has become Manitoba’s policy to apprehend babies first and ask questions about the parents’ fitness later.

“Once a child is apprehended, it’s at least three months until you get it back. It can be as long as six, even if you are in a position of strength,” he said.

Mr. Wishart’s comments about our system more closely reflect my experience with our child welfare system. The Manitoba Government is saying that changes are on the way. Indigenous people in Manitoba have endured the forced removal of their children during the residential school era, the forced removal of their children during the 1960’s scoop, and now the forced removal of their children through the mass apprehension and removal of our modern child welfare system. I’m therefore skeptical of Government action against indigenous children and families or promises they make to improve the system.

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