Province of Manitoba to end birth alerts

The province of Manitoba will end the practice of birth alerts effective April 1,  says the Minister of Families Heather Stefanson in an interview with APTN that will air on the national news Thursday evening.

“We heard very loud and clear from the legislative review committee and the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry recommended the end to the practice of birth alerts, and we also heard from grand councils and Indigenous people, it’s something they want to see,” Stefanson said.

The birth alert system flags a mother’s health file so that hospital staff notify social service workers as soon as the baby is born.

Often they lead to the apprehension of newborns leaving the new mother to battle to get her infant back, at a time when they should be bonding.

Stefanson said a review of the system found “no evidence this increases the safety of children in any way.”

Stefanson said the goal is to work with mothers before the baby is born and provide her with supports to keep the baby safe with his mother, instead of the antagonistic practice of what often ends in the apprehension of a newborn, and working backwards within the system of those supports to return the child to his or her family.

“What we’re trying to do is develop birthing plans with moms with families and there are programs that exist now out there so what we want to try to do is build back that trust within the community to point them to the programs that are working.”

Manitoba has the highest rate of kids in care at 11,000 – 90 per cent of whom are Indigenous.

Manitoba had been seizing on average, a newborn a day under the birth alert system.

It has crippled hundreds of families.

APTN has done several stories on parents who have had their child taken away from them for reasons that go unexplained and their uphill battle to get the babies back after the initial bonding time is long passed.

The problem is so severe, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called for provinces to end birth alerts in its report released in June 2019.

Manitoba’s legislative review committee, as part of its recommendations to severely overhaul child welfare, recommended an end to the adversarial birth alert practice.

When the minister’s order comes into effect, Manitoba will become the second province in Canada to end the practice.

British Columbia ended the practice of birth alerts in September 2019.

More to come.


Host, Producer / Winnipeg

Melissa is a proud Red River Métis and award-winning journalist who has spent more than 24 years covering crime, courts, politics, business and entertainment for newspapers in four provinces.
She then joined APTN Investigates in 2009 and APTN National News in 2018 and in that time has garnered numerous awards and nominations including from the World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network (2013), Canadian Association of Journalists (2016, 2019) and Canadian Screen Awards (2018, 2019).

5 thoughts on “Province of Manitoba to end birth alerts

  1. How is this still even a thing? What a disgusting practice! I hate our government so much. Time for it to go!

  2. And start by giving back all the babies you currently have in care unlawfully!! Sickening and heartwreching to read that 90% of these babies are indigenous. It shows how racist and unethical this practice is!

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