'Heartbreaking' overdose death of Indigenous teen in B.C. care highlights need for change: report

The B.C. children's advocate has released a scathing report into the death of an indigenous teenager who died of a drug overdose on her 17th birthday. Neetu Garcha reports.

B.C. children’s watchdog is sharing the heartbreaking story of the death of an Indigenous child while in government care.

In a new report titled Skye’s Legacy: A Focus on Belonging, B.C.’s representative for children and youth highlights the short life of an Indigenous teen name Skye and how the system failed her.

Skye spent nearly 12 years in the care of B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) and was moved 15 times. She died of an unintentional overdose in August 2017 on her 17th birthday, less than a year after her mother passed away.

“Skye and her mother deserved much, much better,” Jennifer Charlesworth, B.C.’s representative for children and youth, said.

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“It’s heartbreaking that neither of them received the kind of foundational supports that might have enabled them to deal with the trauma they had experienced and, at the very least, to have a relationship with each other.”

Skye was removed from her mother’s care when she was five years old, according to the report. Rather than re-establishing a relationship between mother and daughter, Skye was put up for adoption, which resulted in three failed adoption plans and subsequent turmoil and emotional harm, the report said. Skye lived in eight different foster homes, attended eight schools and had 18 social workers during her time in care.

She also lacked opportunities to connect to her Dene culture and visit her home territory in Fort McPherson, N.W.T., despite her requests.

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Charlesworth supports the resumption of jurisdiction by First Nations and communities over their own child welfare services, which has been enabled by the passage of Bill C-92.

As that process unfolds, steps are needed to ensure that Indigenous children currently in MCFD care can achieve a sense of belonging, the report said.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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