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Kerri Irvin-Ross, Manitoba’s Minister of Family Services at her office in Winnipeg Manitoba, October 15, 2014. Lyle Stafford for the Globe and Mail

LYLE STAFFORD/The Globe and Mail

Sometimes a problem is so severe that a government should not be cautious about spending a lot more money on it than in the past. The government of Manitoba has apparently arrived at a much fuller consciousness of the calamitous disaster that is native child welfare, after the murder of the teenager Tina Fontaine, and after the final report on the death of the infant Phoenix Sinclair – horrifically murdered by her mother and her mother's boyfriend.

Last week, Kerri Irvin-Ross, the provincial Minister of Family Services, announced a substantially more attentive, consistent and hands-on engagement with children and young people "in care" – a large majority of whom in Manitoba are aboriginal.

The government has relied far too much on loosely supervised hotels and contract workers, and not enough on foster homes – among other deficiencies. If the Department of Family Services is able to put these changes into effect in the spring of next year, as intended, that will be great progress.

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Ms. Irvine said that the changes will be also be "more cost-efficient." Let us hope that is not a euphemism for "false economy" or "parsimony." The Canadian Oxford Dictionary quite properly defines "cost-efficient" as "effective or productive in relation to its cost" – in other words, a healthy ratio that yields good, lasting results.

It's also worth noting that Ms. Irvin-Ross's news release does not mention the word "native." The failures of native child welfare are largely a heritage of the residential schools. It does not help to smooth over the role of "race, national or ethnic origin" (to use the words of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) in relation to these ills. Better to be straightforward and get on with a solution.

Editor's Note: The original print version of this editorial and an earlier online version incorrectly said 95 per cent of the 295 recommendations of former justice Ted Hughes in the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry are now complete. In fact, it was 95 per cent of 295 recommendations that emerged from a series of independent reviews after the murder of Phoenix Sinclair.

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