Support the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and Feathers Of Hope

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The decision to eliminate the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and move it to the ombudsman’s office with no specialty in ...working with kids and less history and trust with Indigenous communities will have serious impacts on the disproportionate number of Indigenous youth in care. The Provincial Advocate organized the very successful Feathers of Hope forums and played an important role in the recent Coroner’s inquest into the deaths 8 Indigenous youth in care. Let’s push back on them and try to save the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.

CONTEXT For Northern Ontario:
WHEREAS, the Ontario government's elimination of the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth announced on November 15, 2018 impacts the immediate safety and well-being of Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Northwestern Ontario youth, those with disabilities, and their ability to have their voices heard at Queen's Park.

WHEREAS, Children in care are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system, more likely to be exposed to abuse, those with mental health challenges often lack adequate access and support resulting in death.

WHEREAS, the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth helps with ensuring all agencies and organizations working with children and youth, including the government, are accountable to putting children and youth's needs and rights first. The work of the OCA pushes us all to do better on an individual, institutional and systemic level and has produced numerous and significant reports including the recent 'Report of the Expert Panel on the Deaths of Children and Youth in Residential Placements' where 12 deaths between January 1, 2014 and July 31, 2017 in Ontario were subject to investigation.

WHEREAS, on May 30, 2016, The Ontario Government Ontario made a public Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and that the Ontario Human Rights Commission found that Indigenous and Black children and youth are over-represented in admissions into care at many agencies in Ontario (Interrupted Childhoods: Over-representation of Indigenous and Black children in Ontario child welfare; April 12, 2018).

WHEREAS, a Seven Youth Inquest held in Thunder Bay from October 5, 2016-June 28, 2016 looking into the deaths of youth from Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) territory, with 145 recommendations made have the potential to save lives and address youth suicide of First Nation students, and long-term fundamental change addressing the inequity that First Nations children in Canada face.

WHEREAS, in January 2012, the Advocate’s Office, with the support of First Nations leadership and federal and provincial members of the Intergovernmental Network (IGN), began planning to bring First Nations young people from 92 remote and fly-in communities in northern Ontario together with policy-makers and decision-makers to discuss the realities and issues of concern of youth living in the north. A small working group of IGN members worked with the Provincial Advocate’s Office to create a space for dialogue with and between young people in Thunder Bay. This space is now known as Feathers of Hope.

WHEREAS, Since 2013, Feathers of Hope forums in Thunder Bay have engaged more than 100 First Nations young people (representing 62 of the 92 northern First Nations communities in Ontario) and assembled a ground-breaking report, Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan and explored topics of Child Welfare and Culture, Identity, and Belonging.

WHEREAS, no consultation of stakeholders has taken place.

Therefore, we demand that the government reverses its decision to amalgamate the Office of the Child Advocate with the Ombudsman’s Office and that the Child Advocate maintains its independence and remains as a strong voice with and for the young people of Ontario.