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Cowichan Tribes sign historic agreement with Canada and Province of British Columbia to support their children, youth and families

June 27, 2024 at 3:57 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

From Indigenous Services Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/indigenous-services-canada/news/2024/06/cowichan-tribes-sign-historic-agreement-with-canada-and-province-of-british-columbia-to-support-their-children-youth-and-families.html

The children, youth and families of Cowichan Tribes will have new opportunities to thrive surrounded by the love, care and support of their community now that jurisdiction has been recognized and restored back to the Nation. This restoration, affirmed under An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, recognizes their inherent right to self-determination. By managing all aspects of their child and family services, including prevention, protection measures, and operations, Cowichan Tribes can prioritize the best interests of their children as defined by their community.

On June 24, 2024, Chief Cindy Daniels (Sulsulxumaat), Cowichan Tribes; the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services; and the Honourable Grace Lore, B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development signed a historic coordination agreement. This coordination agreement will support the implementation of Snuw’uy’ulhtst tu Quw’utsun Mustimuhw u’ tu Shhw’a’luqw’a I’ Smun’eem (The Laws of the Cowichan People for Families and Children) for Cowichan citizens across Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, with the potential for future expansion across B.C. and Canada. The Law’s implementation includes the full transfer of all child and family services, operations and programs to Cowichan Tribes’ responsibility and control.

Every aspect of the Law is grounded in Quw’utsun snuw’uy’ulh (teachings), values, family customs, and traditions to ensure love, respect, and keeping children with their families are prioritized in decision making, including court processes. Cowichan families and community members will be empowered to support the safety and well-being of children and youth, while extended families and Elders become more involved in the work to preserve and enhance children’s connections to their family, community, culture and language. The Law also mandates prevention and provisions for people in need, which means that robust Cowichan-centric services will be offered to families facing challenges, such as poverty, inadequate housing, substance misuse, or mental health issues. This holistic Quw’utsun approach focuses on enabling family wellness, safeguarding children’s best interests, and ensuring generational teachings and values are passed on to future generations.

The coordination agreement signed June 24, 2024, is the eighth in Canada, and the second in British Columbia under the Act. It outlines coordination mechanisms and support for Cowichan Tribes’ law to come into force over child and family services. This includes funding from the federal and provincial governments to establish that sustainable and appropriate resources are available. The federal government is providing approximately $207.5 million and B.C. has committed to providing $22 million to support the four-year agreement with Cowichan Tribes, for the period of 2024-25 to 2027-28.

By working together, we are making progress towards supporting Indigenous Peoples to determine and implement solutions for their children and families that improve their well-being. As more agreements are signed, more Indigenous children and youth will grow up surrounded by the love, support and guidance of their community, fostering a brighter future for generations to come.

Quotes:

“Our Quw’utsun smun’eem (children) deserve to thrive within their families and our culture. I am heartened to sign this historic coordination agreement on behalf of Quw’utsun Mustimuhw. I am thinking today of the generations of our children who experienced the trauma of being removed from their families and our community. The implementation of our Child Law recognizes our inherent right to govern our children in accordance with our snuw’uy’ulh (teachings) and ensure a better future for our people.”

Chief Cindy Daniels (Sulsulxumaat), Cowichan Tribes

“The people of Cowichan Tribes are now taking back control of their child and family services, something that should have never been taken away in the first place. With the signing of this coordination agreement, Cowichan children will grow up better supported, immersed in their culture and connected to their land. This is a significant step in providing everyone with a fair chance to succeed.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services

“This agreement is a historic step for the Cowichan Tribes whose members will be able to receive child and family services from their own people within their own community, and based on their own teachings and values under Cowichan law. British Columbia became the first province in Canada to expressly recognize the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples to care for their own kids and families, and with this agreement, we bring the spirit of that legislation to life. Congratulations to the Cowichan people on this historic milestone.”

The Honourable Grace Lore, B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development

Quick Facts:

  • Cowichan Tribes is the largest First Nation in British Columbia by population and is comprised of seven traditional villages: Kwa’mutsun, Qwum’yiqun’, Xwulqw’selu, S’amunu, Lhumlhumuluts’, Xinupsum, Tl’ulpalus.
  • Cowichan Tribes has established its Child and Family Services Authority: Stsi’elh stuhw’ew’t-hw tun Smun’eem (Honouring Our Sacred Children and Families) with a Board of Directors. The Board is in the process of appointing a CEO for the management of the Authority. Cowichan Tribes Council will have responsibilities to support the Authority, make regulations, and ensure it is functioning properly, but will not be involved in day-to-day operations or case decisions.
  • Since 1993, Cowichan Tribes has delivered services to its members through its provincially delegated Indigenous child and family services agency – Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem. As one of the first Indigenous child and family services agencies in British Columbia, Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem delivered crucial prevention and protection services to Cowichan children and youth on reserve and, more recently, all of those residing in the Cowichan Valley.
  • Key milestones in Cowichan Tribes’ journey toward re-exerting jurisdiction over child and family services include the signing of a tripartite Letter of Understanding in 2019 that committed Cowichan Tribes, Canada and the Province of B.C. to work collaboratively on recognizing Cowichan Tribes’ jurisdiction. After extensive community engagement and working with Elders to create the Snuw’uy’ulhtst tu Quw’utsun Mustimuhw u’ tu Shhw’a’luqw’a’ i’ Smun’eem (The Laws of the Cowichan People for Families and Children), Cowichan citizens voted in favour of the new Law on November 24, 2023.
  • For most Indigenous children, Child and Family Services are provided under the legislation of the province or territory where the children and families reside.
  • On January 1, 2020, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families (the Act) came into force. The Act affirms the inherent right to self-government of Indigenous Peoples, which includes jurisdiction over child and family services, provides a pathway for Indigenous communities to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services, and sets out principles applicable, on a national level, to the provision of child and family services to Indigenous children.
  • In November 2020, the Prime Minister announced over $542 million in funding to advance First Nations, Inuit and Métis engagement to co-develop the implementation of the Act and to support Indigenous communities and groups in building the capacity to establish their own child and family services systems.
  • Through Budget 2021, the Government of Canada invested an additional $73.6 million to be used over four years, starting in 2021−22, for additional resources to implement the Act.
  • Through Budget 2022, the Government of Canada invested an additional $87.3 million over three years, starting in 2022−23, to increase capacity building and funding for coordination agreement discussion tables to support the exercise of First Nations, Inuit and Métis jurisdiction in relation to child and family services.
  • With funding announced in the 2022 Fall Economic Statement, Budget 2023 also provides $444.2 million over three years, starting in 2022−23, to support Peguis First Nation in Manitoba and Louis Bull Tribe in Alberta to exercise jurisdiction over their child welfare systems and make decisions about what is best for their children and families.
  • Through Budget 2024, the Government of Canada proposes to provide $1.8 billion over 11 years, starting in 2023−24, to support communities in exercising jurisdiction under the Act, including the first Inuit agreement to support community-led, prevention-based solutions to reduce the number of children in care.
  • The B.C. Indigenous Self-Government in Child and Family Services Amendment Act passed into law on November 25, 2022, making B.C. the first province in Canada to expressly recognize the inherent right of self-government of Indigenous communities including jurisdiction over child and family services.
  • This is the second coordination agreement signed by B.C. following the Splatsin Stsmamlt agreement on March 24, 2023.

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