I am sure everyone in Saskatchewan is aware by now of the unfortunate death of little six year old Lee Bonneau on a Saskatchewan First Nation. This tragedy has been well documented and has received media coverage across this country. The reason that I wish to comment on it this morning is that I believe there are some bigger issues which must be addressed and are far bigger than if some individuals in the Department of Social Services, First Nations’ Social Services Agencies or foster care parents have screwed up.
Why that child was wondering alone outside of a bingo hall on a Saskatchewan First Nation where he didn’t know anyone and would have had very little in the way of support will be found out. Whether any one will be held accountable for this tragedy remains to be seen because it seems when there are jurisdictional issues between the province and First Nations, there is a lot of buck passing and not much in the way of resolution.
As you are all aware, the aboriginal community demanded many years ago that they have jurisdiction over aboriginal children because of the disproportionate numbers of children which were being placed in non-aboriginal homes for foster care. The arguments for these changes, I believe, were fairly sound because of cultural, linguistic and social economic factors were being ignored. Unfortunately it seems that this whole process has evolved into fairly large dollars and cents issues and one of jurisdiction as per treaty rights.
Lee Bonneau was not aboriginal and the question has to be answered….are children in the Social Services system being apportioned out strictly based on race and if they are, how are the dollars being allocated? Too many times in recent weeks and months, we have seen issues coming up with foster parents and the inability of the government to provide adequate supervision of these people and making sure that the selection process is iron clad. Children at risk are paying the price for this lack of due-diligence. Children at risk should not be pawns in jurisdictional disputes and in my view, Lee Bonneau should have never been on that First Nation in the first place and he certainly shouldn’t have been wondering around alone with no one to protect him.
All of the hand wringing that is going on now with what should be done with the 11 year old perpetrator does not solve the other issues. The fact that this individual has a history of involvement with police and other agencies means that there is a break down in the Social Services system on that First Nation. The taxpayer of Saskatchewan and Canada needs to be assured that the monies they are spending to protect all of our children who are at risk means there must be corresponding accountability.
Let us hope that Bob Pringle, the Children’s Advocate in Saskatchewan, is given the latitude to ask all of the tough questions and get the appropriate answers or else the death of Lee Bonneau will be forgotten and just become another news item. We cannot allow that to happen.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.