Question Period: Support for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Kings Cove, Newfoundland

Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Senator Gold, when youth in foster care reach the age of majority, they lose government supports and are left unequipped to deal with the financial and emotional challenges of living independently. A serious consequence of those aging out of foster care is the potential to fall directly into the criminal justice system. Indigenous and Black youth are overrepresented in the foster care system and in the criminal justice system.

Foster care also carries the legacy of residential schools, as we have heard again this week from many survivors and elders the harrowing stories of abuse and genocide. There are still many young Indigenous people suffering from this part of Canada’s history. The issues are still so pertinent and current.

Youth and their advocates are reporting that the many challenges associated with aging out of care have been exacerbated by the pandemic. This population is at risk of being forgotten as the rest of Canada builds back better.

Senator Gold, how is the federal government working with the provinces and territories to address the issue of aging out of foster care?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, senator, for the question. The government knows that all children, including Indigenous and Black children, deserve to grow up in a home that is culturally relevant and has the resources to deal with and ensure their success in life.

As you imply in your question and as senators would know, foster care falls exclusively within provincial jurisdiction, but I would be very happy to draw the federal government’s attention to the possibility of examining what role the federal government could play in facilitating a dialogue and working towards uniform policy-making across jurisdictions.

Senator Bernard: Senator Gold, if we could encourage the federal government to work with the provinces to nationally disrupt the pipeline of youth moving from foster care to the criminal justice system, that would certainly be very useful. Is that something that the federal government might commit to doing?

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question. The federal government is committed to working with the provinces in the areas where jurisdiction overlaps and interacts, such as the criminal justice system, to point to the example that you cite. I certainly will bring your suggestion to the attention of the government.

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