BC’s child care system is failing Indigenous women and families

The current structure of the child care system in BC is failing women and children and violating their human rights in many complex ways.  This failure is compounded for Indigenous mothers. The colonial state has a long history of over-involvement in the lives of Indigenous families, from the residential school system to the 60’s scoop, and the disproportionate removal of Indigenous children from their families of origin continues. In this context, a denial of child care may further undermine Indigenous women’s parenting and perpetuate the cycle of intrusions by the child protection system.

Our 2016 law reform report High Stakes, which analyzed the human rights consequences of BC’s inadequate child care system, highlighted the increased likelihood of child apprehensions when high-quality child care is out of reach:

The stress of parenting and the financial insecurity that results from being unable to
access child care can undermine women’s ability to parent. Many of the participants
reported that their relationships with their children suffered due to the ongoing
stress resulting from either financial insecurity or managing their unpaid caregiving
without support.

Another project participant, an Indigenous grandmother, reported being unable
to have her infant grandson placed into her care despite months of trying. Child
protection authorities required that she have child care in place, but that proved to
be a major obstacle. She was unable to afford the cost on her own and it took her
several months to obtain accurate information about accessing financial assistance.
When she finally learned that funding was available, she found out that she could
not start receiving the funding until her grandson was actually in her care, but she
could not pay to hold child care spaces while she waited. As a result, she was able
to secure several child care spaces only to lose them when the court processes did
not proceed as expected, causing her to restart the cycle of trying to find a child care
space for her grandson. (page 43)


Exploring Child Care, Child Protection, and the Human Rights of Indigenous Women

This new project aims to explore the experiences of Indigenous women and their children to assess the correlation between a lack of appropriate child care and involvement of the child protection system. We believe that the best way to begin this assessment is to speak directly to Indigenous women who have had involvement with child protection authorities in the past ten years. These stories will inform us: were these mothers able to access child care services, and if so, were the services they received culturally appropriate?

The project activities include:

  • Formation of an advisory committee to guide the process and ensure that the project is developed in a culturally appropriate way
  • Legal research about how the failures of the existing child care system impact the human rights of Indigenous women and children
  • Outreach and interviews with Indigenous mothers who may want to share their stories
  • Development of a long-term law reform and litigation plan to respond to women’s experiences

To learn more, please contact Shahnaz at familylaw [at] westcoastleaf [dot] org or 604-684-8772 extension 123.


This project has been generously funded by CBA Law for the Future and BCGEU.