For immediate release
January 30, 2020

Treaty One Territory, Winnipeg, MBManitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. is responding to news that the Province of Manitoba will end birth alerts on April 1, 2020.

Leaders from MKO First Nations unanimously passed resolution 2019-11-06 in November 2019 to call for an end to birth alerts in Manitoba. Child welfare advocates and leaders had raised concerns that the provincial government’s birth alerts traumatize the parent(s) who may already be struggling with issues such as poverty, addiction, domestic violence, or homelessness.

“First Nations possess the inherent right to self-determination and to assert their laws and customs,” said Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “First Nation governments welcome an end to birth alerts as another step to help preserve and nurture healthy family relations based on their support systems, their cultural values, and their customs.”

Birth alerts are issued without the knowledge or consent of pregnant women. In Manitoba, the standard practice in the Child and Family Services (CFS) system is to issue a birth alert on any parent who has grown up in care or who has a child in care. For moms and newborns under a birth alert, a baby can be apprehended into care within days or even hours of being born.

“I encourage the provincial government to end the practice of birth alerts as soon as possible and to end all related government policy including legislation, regulations, and standards,” stated Grand Chief Settee. “We absolutely need to see a change in the way CFS agencies are working with and supporting expectant parents to keep newborns safe and families together. We know that birth alerts have disproportionately impacted Indigenous women and this must end now.”

The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls also called for an end to birth alerts.

MKO encourages the province to continue shifting its focus towards better supports for expectant mothers, including better planning to provide supports, early interventions, and reunifications.