Birth Alert investigation: Indigenous families are grossly overrepresented in birth alerts in B.C. Photo of reporter Anna McKenzie and her daughter taken by Captured Memories Photography.
Indigenous families are grossly overrepresented in birth alerts in B.C. Photo of reporter Anna McKenzie and her daughter taken by Captured Memories Photography.
Nanaimo Vancouver Island

Nanaimo This Week: Birth alerts

Julie Chadwick January 15, 2021

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This week I’d like to call attention to a great exclusive investigation done by our colleagues at IndigiNews about birth alerts based on government records obtained by the reporters. The documents reveal that government lawyers had advised the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) that the practice was “illegal and unconstitutional” months before the practice was banned.

As Nanaimo-based IndigiNews reporter Anna McKenzie explains to APTN News in an interview about the investigation: “We know once an expectant parent is flagged, the hospital will alert the social worker team once the baby’s been born. And in B.C. we know that almost 30 per cent of the time the infant is apprehended. 

“This is really concerning because it breaches the parent’s privacy as personal information is shared without their consent between these two large social service bodies: healthcare and child welfare services.

“And through this we also know that Indigenous children, youth and families are grossly overrepresented in all facets of the child welfare system so it actually came to no surprise that in 2018 and 2019, of the birth alerts that were issued, 58 per cent of them were issued towards Indigenous families.” 

While the practice ended in September of 2019, it still occurs elsewhere in Canada.  

McKenzie adds: “This is tangible proof that the B.C. government was aware that what they were doing was wrong, and in my opinion it’s a continuation of the legacy of taking Indigenous children away from our respective families and communities.”

As editor Lindsay Sample notes about the investigation on Facebook, the ministry subsequently told the team of journalists that it released the information “in error.” You can read the full investigation here.

What’s going on

Photo by Island Roots Market/Facebook

Back in my days at the Nanaimo Daily News, I worked as both a reporter and the entertainment editor. I miss knowing what was going on in town. And though COVID-19 has definitely made any kind of event-hosting problematic, I thought I’d see if I could highlight some of the things happening around town, even if it is only on a virtual basis.
 

  • Wednesday’s: Farmers at the Island Roots market continue to sell produce and goods at Beban Park inside the Centennial building, with full COVID-19 safety measures in effect. You can also visit their website in advance to make an online order and pick up on the day.
  • Wednesday Jan. 20: Many people are getting crafty while staying indoors, and local artist Aaramë is hosting a gel plate printmaking workshop from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Nanaimo Art Gallery Art Lab. Cost is $60 or $55 for members and includes supplies. While the prints are drying, participants will take a tour of the NAG’s latest exhibit: Anna Wong: A Traveller on Two Roads
  • Saturday and Sunday Jan. 23 and 24: With many more people taking to the outdoors these days, it might be useful to take a Wilderness First Aid Course offered by Ridge First Aid (via the Island Mountain Ramblers) for “weekend warriors, scout and guide leaders, and wilderness instructors.” The course will also include basic shelter construction in addition to the first aid content. 
  • Sunday January 24 to Sunday Jan. 31: It’s Family Literacy Week, and Literacy Central Vancouver Island (LCVI) is celebrating with a photo contest for families with small children. To enter, take a photo of your family reading together and email it to info@literacycentralvi.org. Get it in by Jan. 31 and get a free kids book plus you’ll be entered into a draw to win one of two activity prize packs. The contest is sponsored by LCVI’s partner Decoda Literacy Solutions, who are running their own photo contest.

Help us understand Nanaimo’s rent problem

A townhouse for rent near Nanaimo's waterfront park.
A townhouse near Nanaimo’s waterfront park. Photo by Wisley/Flickr

As we research our forthcoming rental affordability series, we want to hear from you. Please take a moment to fill out this questionnaire to help us better understand the scope of the problem and the solutions underway in Nanaimo from the perspective of renters. The more people we hear from the better, so please also help us spread the word by sharing this survey with a friend. If you’re a landlord, get in touch with us directly in reply to this email and stay tuned for an additional survey.

Want to support this work? We’re seeking partner organizations that understand the value of high-impact, community-led journalism and want to be part of this series. If your organization is interested, contact Terri Potratz.

That’s about it for this week. The purpose of this newsletter is to serve you. If you have any feedback or ideas for future content, please let me know.