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Alberta judge calls for investigation into funding for aboriginal youth in care

EDMONTON - An Alberta judge says there should be an investigation into whether funding for aboriginal youth in the child welfare system is less than funding for non-native youth.

The judge heard evidence at a fatality inquiry that federal money for an agency charged with the care of an aboriginal teen in an Edmonton group home is 22 per cent less than funding for those who look after non-aboriginal youth.

"I recommend that the Government of Alberta investigate whether or not such a funding disparity exists and, if so, to enter into discussions with the Government of Canada to eliminate such a disparity," provincial court Judge Kirk MacDonald wrote in his report released Friday.

The inquiry examined the 2009 stabbing death of a 17-year-old boy in Edmonton.

The teen, referred to in the report only as M, constantly ran away from his group home and was staying with an aunt the night he got into in a fight with several other teens — some armed with swords, knives and bats.

The judge says group home staff followed their rules and nothing could have been done to prevent the boy's tragic and violent death.

His recommendation for an investigation into funding mirrors one made by a judge last year in a fatality inquiry that delved into the case of an aboriginal baby who died of pneumonia while in the care of the Kasohkowew Child Wellness Society. The same society had supervision of M while he was in a group home run by Spirit of Our Youth.

In 2013, Judge Bart Rosborough noted similar evidence by the Kasohkowew Child Wellness Society about unequal funding.

He wrote "there must be no disparity of funding in the funding of aboriginal children versus non-aboriginal children" and that the reasons for eliminating such a disparity are obvious.

MacDonald said, in the case of M, the reasons are particularly obvious.

"The care of a youth like M would be a challenge for any organization, let alone one that is inadequately funded," the judge wrote.

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