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Winnipeg Remembers Dead Foster Children

May 30, 2011 permalink

In Winnipeg Jules Greyeyes is supporting the efforts of Natasha Guimond, mother of Gage Guimond who died in foster care, to get relief through the courts. Mr Greyeyes has also organized a memorial march to take place July 21.



Parents plan lawsuit

Accuse government of systemic abuse of children in CFS care

Natasha Guimond and Jules Greyeyes
Natasha Guimond and Jules Greyeyes are planning to launch a class-action suit. A bank account has been set up to take donations.

The biological mother of a two-year-old boy who was killed while in the care of Manitoba's child welfare system is planning to join a class-action lawsuit accusing the government of systemic abuse of children in care.

Natasha Guimond is one of several parents and relatives who believe their children were far worse off after they were taken into care because of Child and Family Services system, which critics say has been broken for decades.

"It's going to open people's eyes," said Guimond of the lawsuit.

Her two-year-old son, Gage, was killed in July 2007. He had been moved from a stable foster home to live with relatives with addictions problems and criminal records.

A great-aunt, Shirley Guimond, is charged with manslaughter and is out on bail, still awaiting trial.

The court has set Nov. 2 as the date to begin the preliminary inquiry in the case.

Meanwhile Natasha Guimond is struggling to come to terms with the death of her son and said she received no assistance from CFS, including grief counselling, after his death.

"They wouldn't talk to me about it," said Guimond.

Jules Greyeyes is helping organize the lawsuit through the North End Advocacy Group. He says there are already 30 people committed to contributing $29 a month to a bank account set up to fund the lawsuit. He's hoping the group might be ready to go forward early in 2010. They are meeting with a lawyer next week to try to get things going.

On Sept. 12, the group is planning a march to raise awareness and money for the lawsuit.

Greyeyes said he wants to force the system to look at families as a whole entity and not just take children without helping parents as much as possible.

"There's nothing any one person can do," he said.

"I will not stop until these workers are held accountable," said Greyeyes. "This is about CFS interference. Instead of working with grandparents and parents, they just take these kids."

Greyeyes said he's been approached by families from many different agencies, not all of them aboriginal.

He said one of the other families interested in pursuing the class-action suit are the grandparents of a 15-year-old girl who killed herself earlier this year.

The province is in the midst of implementing a new program called differential response, which is supposed to refocus efforts on preventing families from breaking up through early intervention and treatment.

Negotiations for additional funding from Ottawa to help pay for the added costs of differential response have been going on for several years but no agreement has yet been reached.

Guimond is aware she is not the perfect mother. When she was 18, she left Gage, then nine months, and her daughter in the care of their paternal grandmother. She eventually signed a voluntary agreement with CFS to have them placed in care.

But she says she is trying to pull her life together and isn't getting any help from CFS to get her daughter back or even to visit her more often.

She is allowed to see the little girl just a few times a year. The visits are supervised and can only occur in a room in the CFS offices, which has, says Guimond, a few broken toys and some colouring books.

Her daughter is stressed by the visits, but Greyeyes said any child would be stressed in those conditions.

"They aren't even allowed to go across the street to the park," he said.

A spokeswoman for the provincial government refused comment due to the potential legal action.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press