Grand Chief ‘horrified’ Alberta quietly allows organ harvesting from children who die in provincial care

First Nations children accounted for 78 per cent of in care deaths since 1999

Brandi Morin
APTN National News
The Grand Chief of Treaty 8 in Alberta says he was “horrified” to find out Alberta has a policy allowing for the harvesting of organs from children who die in the care of the province.

Treaty 8 Grand Chief Steve Courtoreille said he is upset that First Nations were not made aware of the practice until now.

“Having just learned of this policy, I am horrified, appalled and, quite frankly, mad as hell that this is happening and that it has been working quietly in the background for so long,” said Courtoreille in a statement.

With an already high number of Aboriginal children in care, a 2013 investigation conducted by the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald revealed a startling trend in the deaths of children in care in Alberta. The investigation uncovered that while only nine per cent of Alberta children are Indigenous they accounted for 78 per cent of children who have died in foster care since 1999.

“We have children in care that are dying, and now, we find out that they may be harvesting their organs?” said Courtorielle. “It is disgusting, they are dying under provincial care, in a provincial system. Last year, we had 20 Aboriginal children die in care, does this policy mean all these kids had their organs removed? What is going on in this province?”

Treaty 8 officials are demanding that First Nations be consulted on the organ donation policy and that it be amended.

Courtoreille said that removing dead children’s organs shouldn’t be a decision for the province to make. He said the practice needs to stop immediately.

“Part of our culture is that a body must be whole when it goes back to the Creator, not dissected as the government sees fit,” said Courtoreille. “The problem is that we are not a part of these conversations, instead, the Province just did it. In the 8 years this policy has been in place how many of our children have been sent back missing parts? Honestly, if people aren’t shocked by this, then they just aren’t listening.”

Courtoreille said he is also concerned First Nations organizations don’t have access to records to find out information about the Aboriginal children who have died in care and if their organs were removed.

Treaty 8 is aware of at least one past instance of the province harvesting a dead child’s organs without consent from the family.

In an email to APTN, the Ministry of Health said they are more than willing to sit down and discuss concerns about the policy with First Nation representatives. They also said it is extremely rare for medical authorities to ask for organ and tissue donations.

“Among the general population, only 1 to 2 per cent of people are considered suitable for donation when they die,” said Mike Berezowsky, assistant director, communications, Alberta Human Services.

“In fact, there have only been two occurrences involving children in care in recent years. One involved a child who was not Aboriginal, and in that matter the father – when located – was supportive of the decision. In the other, consent was provided based on the direction and wishes from the youth, who was Aboriginal. The family supported the decision.”

He went on to reference the cultural sensitivity’s surrounding the policy,

“When making a decision about organ and tissue donations for children in care, cultural and religious beliefs and practices are essential considerations, as well as the preferences of the child (where appropriate) and the child’s family.”

The organ donation policy was first created in 2006, and applied to children in care under the status of a Permanent Guardianship Order (PGO).

At the time, the ministry met with 18 First Nation agencies and 12 CEO’s of Child and Family agencies to announce the policy and its implementation. Then, in 2014, the policy expanded to include children in care under a Temporary Guardianship Order (TGO).

Here’s a link to the policy itself.

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12 thoughts on “Grand Chief ‘horrified’ Alberta quietly allows organ harvesting from children who die in provincial care

  1. I am glad you are alive and well, my mom had pupil transplants, but when we hand over the money for these organs , we should be handing half of the money for the organ to the parents of the child or person donating….

  2. Regardless of whether it makes sense to you, it is unethical to take body parts from someone who is incapable of making their wishes known. It is anti-Indigenous and self-serving to decide that you should be able to capitalize off of the exploitation of Indigenous children so that you can have the possibility of squatting on Indigenous land for a little while longer.

  3. “The investigation uncovered that while only nine per cent of Alberta children are Indigenous they accounted for 78 per cent of children who have died in foster care since 1999.”

    Then perhaps your culture should do a better job of raising your own children.

    Now, I’m not saying the province is in the right here, but one of the reasons so many indigenous children are dying in provincial care is because there are so many indigenous children in provincial care.

    1. The kids are in care due to policies created by the government to extinguish Aboriginal culture and assimilate Aboriginal children in to non-Aboriginal culture … the Aboriginal culture as a whole is trying to regain it’s culture after this breakdown …this started generations ago …

    2. agreed, parents gave up their right to decide end of life care decisions for their children when they chose not to care about their life when they had them. Often times though, if the child is adopted, adopted parents have the right to decision making.

    3. Or perhaps you people should stop stealing Indigenous children from their families in the first place. Instead of just this shallow analysis of why Indigenous children in care are dying perhaps you could expend a little brain power in considering the reasons why the state feels so entitled to take these children from their communities after imposing poverty on the families.

  4. They say they spoke with 18 first nation agencies, 12 CEO’s…who were these people they told and why they hell didn’t these FIRST NATION agencies see a problem with this? Why wasn’t this plastered all over social media along with letters to every first nation regarding their children having their organs possibly harvested !!! Where are these people who said nothing?

  5. They are lying. One or two Children? hahaha… Don’t trust a thing that the Government says in Alberta. We caught them hiding the deaths of 685 Children under the ministries care. What does that say?

  6. How? How is this even possible in this day and age? I can’t even fathom who, how or why. My God, is there no end to what will be taken from the Indigenous without regard for decency?

  7. Scary and sinister stuff! Firstly why are so many First Nations children dying in care!!??? What have they died of , from? And if so they should be handed over to their families or tribes at least and discussions had on organ donation. Respecting cultural belief is paramount! Sadly these conversations can be very intense as urgency to ( harvest) is crucial in viability of the organs donated! So theoretically it would be too late in most instances I would think . Time taken to contact discuss and decide could take a while. Therefore the organs should remain in the body of the child!!! Also how old should a child be to give consent without an adult ? And are they aware of their cultural beliefs etc on this matter firstly? I wonder if they do hence they are in care , is their culture taught to them at all. It’s wrong in my opinion to take these kids organs without adult tribal consent!

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