Initially published as a column in the Armchair Mayor News on Friday, October 7, 2016.
Since 2011, at least 233 children between the ages of three and 18 have been subjected to sexual abuse while in foster care. That is in British Columbia alone. The majority of them were girls and more than 60 percent Indigenous. To put it in perspective, approximately 25 percent of the children in foster care in our province are aboriginal.
The report created some ripples on the day it hit the press, but definitely not enough and the ripples also did not carry through the next few days. In other words, it’s not something we talk about and become rightfully shocked by.
In contrast, the Montreal pit bull ban got so much publicity and word of mouth that it reached many corners of this province and the country too. While I will not go into that debate, my contention revolves around what makes us tick as a society. That over two hundred children (many more go unreported) were subjected to sexual violence in Canada in this day and age should make us all stop and question our priorities as a society.
Love or hate pit bulls, the thing is, we talk about it, we have it in the news, petitions are flying (one had approximately 191,000 signatures a week or so ago) and we collectively argue about the ban. There are some pretty strong opinions flying out there if you care to check the news.
For the record, I love dogs. I have one I dearly love, and I do think that dogs deserve to be cared for the right way. But, I am of the belief that every dog owner should be charged or drastically fined should their dog attack anyone and harm them. The money should go straight to shelters to help other animals.
On the other hand, are we being just as vocal about those abused children? A year ago or so I wrote a column about a little girl (age 2) who died while in foster care, bearing many signs of physical abuse. It saddened me then and it still saddens me now. There was a lot of muddling in the case as the foster parents denied being physically abusive and the natural mother who fought hard to get her baby back had a history of mental disease.
B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux still maintains that the ministry has rigorous standards when choosing foster parents. Outrage? Nah. New measures will be implemented, possibly after paper-pushing, stamping, approving of this and that, and then some more paper-pushing. Meanwhile, children suffer.
It’s hard to believe our most beautiful province has a shameful reputation when it comes to how we take care of children. Not mine or yours most likely, but of those who were born under less lucky stars. The most vulnerable of them all. They drop even lower and the sky above them darkens even more with every day of abuse and mistreatment.
It’s high time we put a stop to that. That in every society throughout time people found themselves at the opposite poles of status, financially or otherwise, is true. But nowadays we are privy to enough information to be able to step up and stop any kind of abuse, to shorten decision-making time when a child’s life depends on it and to make it big news and a subject of conversation until the issue does not longer exist. To paraphrase our PM who is still dragging his feet in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry, this is 2016. Almost 2017 in fact.
I believe in compassion and second chances, yet there is a fine line we ought not to cross when dealing with children who are subjected to sexual violence of any kind. The problem is, many of these children are scarred for life. Second chances are, in these cases and sadly so, more often for the perpetrators than for the young victims.
When we think of the future we think of children. They are the ones carrying the legacy into tomorrow. The more we allow as a society for a partially rotten legacy to exist, the more troublesome the future we hope for becomes.
A quote I often think of belongs to Nelson Mandela: ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’ Am I right to assume that our society’s soul is not doing too well at the moment? We can each do something to make it heal by fighting to treat our collective children better and let no harm of the above sort come to them.