Year: 2022 Source: PLoS ONE. (2021). 16(6), e0252993. SIEC No: 20220586

Indigenous leaders are gravely concerned over disproportionate representation of Indigenous children in Canada’s child welfare systems. Forced separation from children is deeply traumatizing for mothers and detrimental to the wellbeing of Indigenous families, communities and Nations. This study examined relationships between child apprehension and suicide attempt within a cohort of young Indigenous women impacted by substance use. We utilized data collected every 6 months (2008–2016) by the Cedar Project, an Indigenous-governed cohort study involving young Indigenous people who use drugs in British Columbia, Canada. Recent child apprehension was defined as having a child apprehended by the Ministry of Child and Family Development since last visit. Recurrent event Cox proportional hazards models estimated the independent effect of child apprehension on maternal suicide attempt. Among 293 participants, 78 (27%) reported 136 child apprehensions; incidence of first apprehension was 6.64 (95%CI: 5.25–8.29) per 100 person-years. Forty-seven (16%) participants reported 75 suicide attempts with an incidence of 4.00 (95%CI: 2.94–5.33) per 100 person-years. Participants who reported recent child apprehension (HR: 1.88, 95%CI: 1.00–3.55), had a parent attend residential school (HR: 4.12, 95%CI: 1.63–10.46), experienced recent sexual assault (HR: 4.04, 95%CI: 2.04–7.99), violence (HR: 2.54, 95%CI: 1.52–4.27) or overdose (HR: 4.97, 95%CI: 2.96–8.35) were more likely to attempt suicide. Participants who had a traditional language spoken in the home growing up were half as likely to attempt suicide (HR: 0.49, 95%CI: 0.23–1.01). Results suggest that child welfare systems in Canada perpetuate historical and intergenerational trauma among young Indigenous mothers. Indigenous self-determination over child welfare and culturally safe services are urgently needed to end cycles of child apprehension and support the wellbeing of families, communities and Nations.