Manitoba Indigenous children disproportionately exposed to domestic violence, report finds

·3 min read

A newly released report shows that more than 80% of youth in Manitoba that witnessed domestic intimate partner violence in a one-month period were Indigenous.

The report, which was released last week by the Manitoba Advocate for Child and Youth (MACY) showed that, according to police reports, during the month of April 2019, 81% of children and youth in Manitoba present during an intimate partner violence (IPV) incident were Indigenous, with 76% being First Nations.

In April of 2019, there were a total of 1,943 IPV incidents reported to police in Manitoba, and 342 of the police reports identified that children were present during an incident, impacting a total of 619 children.

And with more than 80% of those children being Indigenous, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) is now calling for changes to see that number brought down, but also to see fewer children taken from their parents when domestic violence incidents are reported by Indigenous people.

“Systems responses tend to focus on separating children from their families, however, we know this approach does not work for our families, as it only creates additional trauma,” AMC Acting Grand Chief Cornell McLean said in a release.

“The overrepresentation of First Nations children impacted by IPV is rooted in a deeper systematic issue that crosses from generation to generation.”

According to First Nations Family Advocate Cora Morgan, there is also concern because Indigenous people who call in domestic violence incidents are often concerned that could result in the loss of their children, and only further their trauma.

“Through the First Nations Family Advocate Office, we have witnessed the consequences of mothers who reported a domestic violence incident,” Morgan said. “We supported a mother of five who experienced domestic violence, and the minute she reported it to the police, her children were automatically apprehended by CFS. This led the mother to become homeless as her Employment and Income Assistance was reduced, and her benefits were discontinued.

“When a mother reports domestic abuse, the consequence should not be cause for further harm for their family.”

AMC said they are also concerned about data from a Statistics Canada report released back in April that showed in Canada, 63% of Indigenous women had experienced either physical or sexual assault since the age of 15, that number sat at 33% for non-Indigenous women.

And with Indigenous people of all ages continuing to be affected disproportionately by domestic violence, McLean said there have to be new approaches for dealing with the issue and ones that are centered on Indigenous ways of thinking and doing.

“There continues to be a lack of direct consideration or input from First Nations leadership,” McLean said.

“Intergenerational trauma is a reality, and until it is addressed with strategies that incorporate our own laws, teachings, and ceremonial ways, we will continue to see the violence against First Nations families.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun