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Letter to Minister Kelly Regan: End the practice of birth alerts

Honourable Kelly Regan, Minister Department of Community Services

8th Floor, Nelson Place
5675 Spring Garden Road
P.O. Box 696
Halifax, NS
B3J 2T7

February 26, 2020 

Dear Minister Regan, 

Women’s Wellness Within (WWW) is a registered non-profit organization in Nova Scotia that provides support, education and advocacy with criminalized women who are pregnant or parenting young children. WWW has become a leading voice for reproductive justice in Nova Scotia. 

WWW is calling on the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services to follow British Columbia and Manitoba in ending the discriminatory and racist practice of issuing birth alerts for “at risk” mothers and their babies. In this province we are apprehending Indigenous children at a significantly disproportionate rate: 23 per cent of children in care are Indigenous, while Indigenous Nova Scotians comprise only 6 per cent of the population at large. 

Child welfare agencies argue that birth alerts are intended to protect the children from inadequate or harmful treatment in the care of their “at risk” birth mothers. Young mothers; poor mothers; racialized mothers have been placed on alerts by virtue of their own previous connection to the child welfare system – an experience which, again, was largely inflicted on Indigenous and racialized children by centuries of paternalistic and racist colonial laws and policies. 

Given the legacy of residential schools in Canada (schools intended to “kill the Indian in the child”), the impacts of the 60s Scoop, and continued marginalization of Indigenous peoples, WWW asks that Nova Scotia does its part to implement the recommendations put forward in by both the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Specifically, call 231 from the MMIWG Inquiry: 

“End the practice of targeting and apprehending infants from Indigenous mothers right after they give birth”. 

And the TRC recommendation, that: 

“Indigenous peoples should not be subjected to any act of genocide or violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group”. 

We ask that Nova Scotia joins BC and MB in focusing on adequate pre, peri and post-natal care for all new mothers, with special attention and supports made available to mothers who may be younger than the average, poorer than the average; with culturally sensitive and targeted supports for Indigenous, African Nova Scotian or otherwise racialized families. 

Women’s Wellness Within knows well the impacts that apprehensions and family separations have on women, children and society at large. We ask that birth alerts are ended immediately and enhanced supports are made available to help marginalized parents with their pregnancies, birth, and parenting experiences. 


Martha Paynter

Chair, Women’s Wellness Within


cc. Dr. Krista Jangaard, President & CEO, IWK Health Centre, Krista.Jangaard@iwk.nshealth.ca

Women’s Wellness Within encourages readers to use this letter to write individually.  Follow WWWW on Facebook / Twitter: @withinwomens

With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.