Videos show of­fi­cials tak­ing new­born from mother

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WIN­NIPEG Two so­cial me­dia videos show a new­born baby girl be­ing taken from the arms of her Indige­nous mother by Man­i­toba so­cial work­ers and po­lice, an ap­pre­hen­sion that First Na­tions lead­ers say is all too com­mon in a child wel­fare sys­tem bi­ased against Abo­rig­i­nals.The videos, broad­cast live Thurs­day on Face­book by the woman’s un­cle, show her sit­ting in a hospi­tal bed, cradling her baby and rock­ing back and forth as so­cial work­ers and po­lice ex­plain that the baby is be­ing taken into care.The woman is cry­ing softly and be­ing hugged by rel­a­tives, one of whom is wail­ing in sor­row. Even­tu­ally, po­lice place the new­born into a car seat and take her away.The mother is not told when she might see her baby again.Sta­tis­tics from the Man­i­toba gov­ern­ment show new­born ap­pre­hen­sions oc­cur, on av­er­age, about once a day in the prov­ince. About 90 per cent of kids in care are Indige­nous.The videos, which had been viewed more than 400,000 times by Fri­day af­ter­noon, of­fered a rare glimpse into a nor­mally pri­vate mat­ter and quickly led to calls for change.“The sys­tem that we’re sub­ject to is not a sys­tem for our peo­ple,” Grand Chief Gar­ri­son Set­tee, who rep­re­sents north­ern Man­i­toba First Na­tions, said Fri­day at a news con­fer­ence with the mother, her fam­ily and other com­mu­nity lead­ers.“We want to take back our ba­bies be­cause they be­long to us. They be­long ... in their own cul­ture, in their own so­ci­eties, among their own peo­ple.”The woman, her baby, and other fam­ily mem­bers can­not be iden­ti­fied un­der Man­i­toba law.The child was taken away be­cause of a false ac­cu­sa­tion that the mother was drunk when she ar­rived at the hospi­tal to give birth, the woman’s aunt said.The videos show fam­ily mem­bers telling so­cial work­ers the ac­cu­sa­tion was not true. They ask whether the baby could stay with one of them in­stead of be­ing taken away. The re­quest is de­nied.All the while, the mother is sit­ting on her hospi­tal bed, cradling her baby. On Fri­day, she re­called get­ting strength from her in­fant daugh­ter.“I was blind­sided ... and it’s just as­ton­ish­ing how far this had to go,” she said.“When I was hold­ing my baby, she was ac­tu­ally the one who was keep­ing me con­tent and strong and fo­cused. And I’m still hold­ing on to that.”Cora Morgan, a fam­ily ad­vo­cate for the Assembly of Man­i­toba Chiefs, said the mother may have been tar­geted for a “birth alert,” a note to so­cial work­ers that an ex­pec­tant mother is high risk, be­cause she had an­other daugh­ter who was tem­po­rar­ily in care sev­eral years ago.The woman had pre­vi­ously sought help for ad­dic­tions and with par­ent­ing from Child and Fam­ily Ser­vices, Morgan said, but was not in­tox­i­cated when she ar­rived at the hospi­tal to give birth.“In the sys­tem, as a mother, as a father, as a grand­par­ent, they’re al­ways deemed guilty of some­thing, and there’s no mech­a­nism to ever prove you’re in­no­cent.”The woman is hope­ful that she might be re­united with her daugh­ter shortly. The case file has been trans­ferred from Win­nipeg to an agency in the woman’s home com­mu­nity.“I’m very hope­ful things are go­ing to work out in a pos­i­tive way.”

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