Thunder Bay, ON - The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) is encouraged by the Ontario Government’s directive to Children’s Aid Societies to cease the practice of birth alerts in Ontario. The unwritten practice of Birth Alerts often leads to infant apprehensions and disproportionately impacts Indigenous women.
Ending birth alerts signals a vital shift towards reducing the number of Indigenous children in care of child welfare. This is part of a systemic change to ensure that “Indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination” (UNDRIP, Article 22 (2)).
Today’s announcement is one step towards addressing violence and discrimination against Indigenous women in Ontario. Indigenous women have identified birth alerts as a discriminatory practice for many years at ONWA’s Annual General Assemblies. ONWA’s membership have collectively endorsed numerous resolutions on necessary systemic change in the child welfare system. Additionally, Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) recommended a clear Call for Justice to end the practice of birth alerts:
12.8 We call upon provincial and territorial governments and child welfare services for an immediate end to the practice of targeting and apprehending infants (hospital alerts or birth alerts) from Indigenous mothers’ right after they give birth. (National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, 2019).
Indigenous women have always had the knowledge, skills and abilities to raise their families. They have an inherent right for jurisdiction over their children. We cannot talk about jurisdiction without including mothers in the conversation.
Additional action is needed. Next steps must involve investments in Indigenous women and community healing at the individual and family level. This includes trauma-informed prevention services such as Indigenous parenting programs and wrap-around supports for mothers.
ONWA Executive Director Cora McGuire-Cyrette noted, “The tireless work of grassroots Indigenous women has made today’s announcement a reality. One example is community leader Wendy Sturgeon (Executive Director, Niagara Chapter - Native Women Inc.), who has been leading on addressing birth alerts in her community for many years.”
Ending the practice of birth alerts in Ontario will create positive change in the lives of Indigenous women and families. Assumptions about Indigenous women’s ability to raise their own children are unacceptable. Today, Ontario heard the clear call for change from Indigenous women.
For more information:
“Ontario Eliminating the Practice of Birth Alerts” News Release: https://news.ontario.ca/mcys/en/2020/07/ontario-eliminating-the-practice-of-birth-alerts.html?utm_source=ondemand&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=p
Andre Morriseau, Communications Manager
Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)