John Beaucage uses a particular term for the heartbreak he sees around him: the Millennium Scoop. The First Nations leader was recently hired by the Ontario government to look into aboriginal child welfare and what he found - not just in Ontario, but across the country - was despair.
After decades of wrestling with the impact of the residential school system - and then with the "Sixties Scoop" that placed so many aboriginal children in non-aboriginal homes - First Nations are now facing another tragedy of lost children in the new millennium. There are more First Nations children in care right now than at the height of the residential school system. That system was a national disgrace that prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper to apologize for its catastrophic impact on natives.
It would be myopic, however, to blame only jurisdictional wrangling and funding discrepancies for the high rates of First Nations children in care. Expert after expert recognizes that family dysfunction is more broadly rooted in poverty, poor health and the oppressive legacy of the residential school system that robbed the parents of first-hand knowledge of how to raise a family.
"The simplest reason why, the most important reason why, is that these children are living in communities where families are facing enormous hardships," says McGill's Nico Trocme.
"The supports to bring up kids just aren't there." … Neglect, however, "is not trivial," Trocme warns. Studies have shown that neglected children have the hardest time moving beyond their troubles, as their cognitive development becomes impaired. "They have the absolute worst outcomes," Trocme says.