Vancouver-In response to the growing crisis facing vulnerable children and youth in care, delegates at the 100th BCTF Annual General Meeting yesterday passed an emergency resolution calling for the resignation of Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development.
“Teachers across BC are heartbroken and fed up with the government's lack of action and support for vulnerable and at-risk children, youth, and young adults,” said BCTF President Jim Iker.
“As teachers, we see the impact of this government's damaging policies every single day in our classrooms. Too many children in this province are living in a state of crisis and the Ministry, led by Minister Cadieux, has failed to respond for too long.
“BC teachers are demanding accountability for the government's failure to protect the lives of so many children and youth. It's time to invest significant new resources and funding to end the crisis facing children in care and the young adults who have, or are about to, age out of care,” Iker said.
The emergency resolution was brought to the AGM in response to the tragic news about Patricia Evoy, a 19-year-old Aboriginal woman who recently aged out of care and was found dead in Burnaby on March 10.
“These children and young adults are our students. We know them, care about them, and do our very best to help them. Meanwhile, the government is failing them,” said Iker. “These heartbreaking and completely preventable deaths must stop.”
According to Update 25 from the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth, there were 245 critical injuries and 58 deaths of BC children and youth who were in care between June 1 and September 30, 2015. The Representative, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, has also expressed deep concerns about the disproportionate number of Aboriginal children and youth in care and the lack of support for vulnerable youth once they turn 19 and age out of care.
Iker said these concerns are shared by teachers across the province. In debate after debate, delegates at the 100th AGM spoke of the growing problem of child poverty and the spiralling mental health issues among students. Teachers worry that there are not nearly enough school counsellors or learning specialist teachers to meet the urgent needs of these students, especially since BC has the highest rate of child poverty in Canada.
Earlier in the meeting, delegates also passed a resolution calling for a task force to examine what changes are needed to more effectively support the educational, social, and health needs of vulnerable or at risk students.
The supporting statement said: “Teachers are the front-line workers with these students before, during, and after their time in care. The role of teachers for these students is highly significant; for many they are their most consistent 'caregiver.' For instance, teachers are often the first to notice and report suspected abuse and/or neglect to the MCFD.”