Splatsin signed a historic document in partnership with federal and provincial governments to protect First Nations children and families.
On Friday, March 24, at the Splatsin Community Centre in Enderby, Splatsin council, elders and community members as well as honoured guests joined federal and provincial government officials as they signed the agreement. The document states it will financially and legally support families and children and allow communities to deliver services in-house, based in cultural practices and family-first systems.
Splatsin Kukpi7 (Chief) Doug Thomas, Federal Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu and BC Minister of Children and Family Development Mitzi Dean spoke ahead of the signing, along with four Splatsin Tkwamipla7 (councillors). Theresa William, Leonard Edwards, Beverly Thomas and Sabrina Vergata all shared their gratitude for the ceremony and recognition of the need for the agreement.
“A very large part of our recovery is taking back our inherent right to self-government and jurisdiction over our children, which is why we’re here today, and is something that we’ve done for thousands of years,” said Kukpi7 Thomas. “It takes a community to raise a child.”
Other honoured guest speakers included Wenecwtsin Wayne Christian, lawyers Bonnie Leonard and Crystal Reeves, Shuswap Nation Tribal Council Chair Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir, and Elder George William.
The coordination agreement is the first in B.C. and the fifth agreement of its kind in Canada. It is pursuant to Bill C-92, the Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families, which became law on June 21, 2019. The agreement will further support Splatsin’s ongoing jurisdiction of their Child, Family and Community Services exercise, under the Spallumcheen Indian Band Bylaw 3-1980 and Secwépemc law.
Over the next 10 years, the agreement promises just over $136 million to Splatsin to support their family practices. It addresses the coordination of needed services, emergency service delivery, legal mechanisms so First Nations children can exercise their rights, and fiscal agreements that are sustainable and work towards substantive equality.
“This work is about ending any future actions by federal governments or provincial governments that might seek, yet again, to oppress indigenous peoples and the care and control of their own children,” said Hajdu. “Splatsin has always known what is best for their children and families, but decades of interference undermined culture, language and family connection.”