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Esquimalt MLA must resign as children and family development minister: First Nations groups say

The calls for her resignation are due to the way her department handled the case of a fostered Indigenous child who was beaten to death

Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Esquimalt MLA must resign as children and family development minister: First Nations groups say

The calls for her resignation are due to the way her department handled the case of a fostered Indigenous child who was beaten to death

Minister of Children and Family Development Mitzi Dean. Photo: Province of BC / Flickr
Minister of Children and Family Development Mitzi Dean. Photo: Province of BC / Flickr
Latest News
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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Esquimalt MLA must resign as children and family development minister: First Nations groups say

The calls for her resignation are due to the way her department handled the case of a fostered Indigenous child who was beaten to death

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Esquimalt MLA must resign as children and family development minister: First Nations groups say
Minister of Children and Family Development Mitzi Dean. Photo: Province of BC / Flickr

The First Nations Leadership Council wants Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean to resign immediately from her minister role because of the way her department oversaw the case of a fostered Indigenous boy who along with his sister, reportedly had been tortured. The boy, 11, was beaten to death. A court found the ministry hadn’t checked on the children in seven months.

In a statement released Monday, the First Nations Leadership Council blames Dean for an “inadequate approach and ongoing lack of accountability.”

This month, a man and a woman—who along with the children cannot be identified under a publication ban—were sentenced to 10 years in prison in Chilliwack for the Feb. 2021 death. The couple pleaded guilty to the boy’s manslaughter and aggravated assault, and the aggravated assault of his sister, who was eight.

BC’s representative for children and youth—an official watchdog that can make recommendations to government—will now further investigate the case and “ensure that the system is transformed” to prevent future ones.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) has been negligent, lacks oversight, and needs a “systematic review” of its child protection policies, said Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the BC Assembly of First Nations. Teegee pointed to a similar case some 20 years ago that led to 17 recommendations for the ministry.

Dean also faced strong criticism from the husband of her new NDP colleague Joan Phillip, who on Saturday won a Vancouver byelection. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs’ president, said Dean specifically must “acknowledge the grinding severity of this failure by resigning immediately” and that MCFD needs “robust accountability mechanisms” specific to First Nations families and children. 

There have been talks around returning jurisdiction over Indigenous foster-care children—who are the majority of kids in the system—to First Nations but that transition hasn’t yet happened.

Last October, British Columbia became the first province to expressly recognize the inherent right of Indigenous Peoples to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services, in order to reduce the disproportionate number of Indigenous children in provincial care.

According to the ministry, Indigenous children comprise less than 10% of BC’s child population, yet represent 68% of the children in provincial care.

Dean, who has led the ministry since 2020, was an executive for the Colwood-based Pacific Centre Family Services and worked for the UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

In a statement released Monday, Dean said she was “heartbroken at what these children endured,” and extended her “deepest apologies and condolences to the family, friends and communities that have been impacted by this tragedy” but she didn’t specifically address calls for her resignation.

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