Impacts over generations
“This work is going to be based on our history, our tradition, and our culture so that our children aren’t going off the reserve and they can stay with family.”
The story that
in foster care
In Canada, 52.2% of children in foster care are Indigenous, but account for only 7.7% of the child population, according to the 2016 Census.
This means 14,970 out of the 28,665 foster children in private homes under the age of 15 are Indigenous.
The over-representation of Indigenous children and youth in Canada’s child welfare system has been well documented. At the national level, Indigenous children made up just 7.7% of all children under 14 in Canada. Yet they accounted for a staggering 52% of all the children in foster care. (Source: 2016 Stats Canada).
The harm and injustices afflicted on Indigenous children and their families by the current system was well documented by The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s work (Commission) leading to louder calls for transformative action to correct the injustices inflected on indigenous families and communities.
A closer look at provincial numbers paints an equally startling picture on the over-representation of Indigenous children and families in the current care system:
- According to BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development, less than 10% of the child population in the province is Indigenous. And yet, as of May 2016, 60.1% (4,445) of the total (7,246) children and youth in care in BC were Indigenous.(Source)
- Indigenous children and youth in BC are more than 15 times more likely to be taken into care compared to non-Indigenous children and youth. (Source)
- In May 2016 of the 3,858 children and youth in care in BC who were permanent wards, 2,609 (68%) were Indigenous. (Source)
Laying the Groundwork for a Cowichan Law
Early work by Cowichan Tribe on child protection services began in 1976 when the community saw its first dedicated social worker focused on child welfare. In 1999, Cowichan Tribes Chief and Council passed a resolution expressing the community’s desire to lead its own child and family wellness services and affirming its inherent right to do so. Shortly afterwards, we began working in earnest, laying the groundwork for the day when we could write our own law focusing on prevention, protection and culture.
The following timeline highlights our Nation’s journey towards self-governance in the areas of child and family services.
First Cowichan Tribes social worker dedicated to child welfare.
Discussions with Federal Government begin to transition child welfare responsibility to Cowichan Tribes.
Cowichan Chief and Council pass a resolution affirming our community’s desire to lead our own child and family wellness services. Extensive work begins shortly afterwards to lay the groundwork for creating our own child welfare law, which will focus on protection, prevention and culture.
Cowichan Tribes and BC sign agreement to begin transfer of child welfare services. Khowutzun Child and Family Services (now Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem) opens its doors.
Cowichan Tribes assumes responsibility for foster homes and for provision of guardian services.
Cowichan Tribes assumes full delegated authority over child and family wellness.
Cowichan community wants adoption work to shift and begin following Cowichan protocols and traditions.
After several community consultations and policy changes, Lalum’utul Smun’eem Child & Family Services holds its first adoption ceremony in accordance with Cowichan protocols and traditions.
A proposal submitted by Lalum’utul Smun’eem Child & Family Services was accepted by the BC Government. Work begins to develop Cowichan legislation for child and family services.
Extensive community engagement sessions held with approximately 1500 band members
The Cowichan Family Law Justice Protect was created as an interim measure to work towards improving Cowichan families’ experiences with the family law justice system and ensure that Cowichan laws and legal processes are part of that experience.
Cowichan Tribes begins providing prevention services for the community. Cowichan Tribes Child and Family Justice Pilot Project funded by Law Foundation of BC.
A letter of understanding is signed between the Federal Government, BC and Cowichan Tribes on their commitment to Cowichan Tribes Nation exercising its jurisdiction over child and family wellness.
Presentation to Community on Child and Family Jurisdiction At Ramada and Facebook Live
Bill C-92: An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families receives Royal Assent
Engagement with community members including Elders, judges, province, lawyers from parents legal centre on C-92.
Cowichan Tribes Chief and Council formally give notice to the federal government of our intent to exercise jurisdiction over children and family services and develop our own law.
Chief and Council established a dedicated team for the Cowichan Tribes Child and Family Wellness Project and five sub-committees with membership consisting of Elder, community, youth and technical experts. Sub-committees and community working groups continue to meet regularly to advance this work.
2021 - present
Tri-partite negotiation table focuses on developing coordination agreement, law and service delivery model
Sign coordination agreement to reclaim jurisdiction or defer if more time is needed.
“Cowichan Tribes sees the signing of this LOU as an important step towards recognizing our inherent jurisdiction over our children. Children and families are central to who we are as Cowichan people. As such, we have always had teachings and laws that govern our responsibilities to our children. We look forward to the day when our laws pertaining to children are stood up and recognized by the federal and provincial governments.”
“This agreement with the Cowichan Tribes and the federal government is a major step forward as we work hand in hand to keep families together in the best interest of children and youth. Indigenous children, like all children, deserve to grow up in safe, loving homes, connected to their community and culture. We are committed to working collaboratively and respectfully with Indigenous communities to make a positive difference for families.”