Child Welfare: BC Indigenous People Empower

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Child Welfare: BC Indigenous People Empower

Indigenous women sing for healing at a Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc gathering in Kamloops, a year after the discovery of unmarked graves at the site of the former Indian residential school. (Archives)

British Columbia has passed legislation that recognizes the inherent rights of Indigenous communities to take charge of their child and family services to end the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in these protective services. This is a first in the country, according to the government.

Victoria on Thursday passed legislation that amends various provincial laws on Indigenous governance in child and family services.

This will allow the province and Indigenous communities to work together to ensure Indigenous people can direct and deliver services based on their own children and family laws, the government said in a statement.

The overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system is often presented as the legacy of Canadian colonialist policies, including the residential school system and the 1960s, which uprooted thousands of children from their families and communities.

Stephanie Atleo, Councilor of the Cowichan First Nation, located on Vancouver Island, considers the passage of this law an important step for reconciliation.

Over the past 150 years, laws and regulations regarding Indigenous children and child services have had a significant impact on Indigenous families, including Cowichan families, says she.

The Cowichan First Nation is [now] in the best position to protect our children by stabilizing [their situation] and protecting their families, she adds.

This law also establishes a new director responsible for the protection system for indigenous children within the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Its role will include harmonizing Indigenous and provincial laws to improve the situation of Indigenous children and youth, according to the government.

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