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  • Kyle Bolt

New Brunswick ends birth alert practice in support of reconciliation

The provincial government is discontinuing its birth alert practice, with more emphasis being placed on supporting expectant mothers.

Established in 2009, the practice consists of alerts being sent to hospital authorities to make them aware of potential risks regarding the safety of an unborn child.

As recommended by the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, this practice has been discontinued in New Brunswick, effective today.

“Putting an end to birth alerts in New Brunswick is a step towards reconciliation,” said Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn. “Birth alerts have been considered controversial because they risked being seen as being discriminatory and unfairly targeting Indigenous and marginalized communities. Our government will continue to work with all New Brunswick communities and authorities to help ensure that all children are born into a safe and loving environment.”

“Our government is working with Indigenous partners in New Brunswick to follow through on the Calls to Justice outlined in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls final report,” said Tourism, Heritage and Culture Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace, who is also the minister responsible for women’s equality. “Ending the practice of birth alerts, while still ensuring that birth mothers and their children are supported, is the right thing to do for Indigenous families and all families.”

Other existing protection measures for newborns will remain in place. According to the Family Services Act, all New Brunswickers have the legal obligation to report child abuse or suspected child abuse, which includes abandonment, desertion, physical or emotional neglect.

“The elimination of birth alerts is intended to support healing of all families and communities,” said Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch. “It is also important to focus on prevention efforts and furthering education about programs and services that are available to parents and expectant mothers, fathers and families.”

Fitch said the Department of Social Development will continue to work with stakeholders and key partners to reinforce legal obligations set out in the act concerning abuse or suspected abuse and ensure safe environments for children and youth.

Birth parent services will continue to be offered by the Department of Social Development. With parental consent, social workers engage with expectant parents and collaborate with them and community partners to develop a plan for the birth and subsequent care of the newborn.

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