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Province signs historic child and family services agreement with B.C. First Nation

Province supports Sts’ailes asserting their own family services laws
On Friday, Feb. 16, the Sts’ailes community gathered at the longhouse for a ceremony to celebrate asserting their jurisdiction over their own child and family services laws. In a ceremony two months later, the province signed a coordinating agreement supporting the First Nations community (Observer File Photo)

During a ceremony on Thursday (April 18), minister of children and family services Grace Lore signed a coordinating agreement with the Sts’ailes First Nation, further reinforcing the province’s support of the nation’s jurisdiction over their own child and family services laws.

“We are recognizing their inherent right to self-government, including exercising their laws, responsibilities and customs as it relates to looking after children, youth and providing family services,” Lore told The Observer. “It’s a really, really important step, recognizing that Indigenous people have the inherent right to look after their own children and families and our commitment to continue to work together to keep Indigenous children and youth safe and connected to family and culture.”

On Family Day weekend this year, the Sts’ailes community held a celebratory ceremony in honour of their asserting their right to govern children and family services according to their laws and traditions.

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“Our children are our most precious resource, and by assuming responsibility for their care, we are ensuring that they grow up with the love, support and connection to their culture that they deserve,” said Chief Ralph Leon (Sah-ahkw) following the ceremony.

Lore said she was “incredibly grateful” to join Sts’ailes in this work.

The Family Day weekend gathering was initially meant to celebrate a ceremonial signing of a coordination agreement with the Sts’ailes nation and the federal and provincial governments. However, about a month before the ceremony, the federal government reneged on their commitment to meet the deadlines set out for finalizing the agreement.

Last year, Sts’ailes leaders brought into force Snowoyelh te Emi:melh te Sts’ailes, or “Sts’ailes Child and Family Services Law,” which covers Sts’ailes children living on reserve. After the Family Day Ceremony, the Sts’ailes law now extends across B.C., effective April 1.

Lore said the province is committed to breaking down barriers for First Nations asserting their self-governing rights.

Sts’ailes Grand Chief Chasta Willie Charlie (Cha’qua’wet) stated the community was “extremely disappointed” in this decision, and it leaves the community significantly underfunded for the nation’s child and family services. Though she did not have an update on where federal officials stand on the issue, Lore said the province will continue to honour the commitment to provide funding for Sts’ailes children and family services.

“It’s work I’m committed to and we are continuing to undertake, and that includes funding through to Sts’ailes,” Lore added. “I do hope the federal government will join us in these conversations because kids and youth need us to get it right.”

Adam Louis

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