Today, on October 4th, Sisters in Spirit Day, and every other day, the Indigenous Child & Family Services Directors Our Children Our Way Society, representing Indigenous child and family well-being organizations across British Columbia, remembers the lives of our loved ones who remain missing while honouring and holding sacred our Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people who have been murdered. Our minds are heavy as we reflect on the homes that our women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people have not returned to and the families and communities that are left without answers and without justice. Our hearts are with them.
The alarmingly high numbers of murders, disappearances, and assaults against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people are an important reminder of how colonial violence continues to manifest in current society. We also see this through the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in the child welfare system. We know that these two crises are deeply interconnected and with this at the forefront of our minds, the Indigenous Child & Family Services Directors Our Children Our Way Society recognizes and supports Nations in their self-determination and resumption of jurisdiction over their children and families.
As Indigenous Child and Family Services Agencies (ICFSAs), we experience the ongoing loss of our most vulnerable and continue to witness the profound and devastating impacts of both these crises. It is from these perspectives that Bringing Justice Home: Recommendations to Honour Our Lost and Missing Loved Ones was developed, providing a further response to the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls.
Bringing Justice Home strives to breathe life into the 15 Calls for Justice (“Calls”) directed at Social Workers and Those Implicated in Child Welfare from the view of ICFSAs who have provided culturally based child and family services to over 120 First Nations communities, as well as Métis and urban populations throughout British Columbia for over 30 years. The report highlights the Indigenous practices of ICFSAs and identifies the system changes that are required to decrease risks of violence and to increase safety for Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
Among the recommendations included in Bringing Justice Home, there were two overarching findings:
- The need to acknowledge the significant role the child welfare system plays in perpetuating ongoing harms and the need to include child and family services within the responses for the ongoing crisis of MMIWG. We have heard:
- “They (mothers) can’t reconcile losing their children, generations of women who are missing from their spirits.”
- We know that when we are not connected, we are more vulnerable.
- To strengthen our families and communities and to be able to foster connections for our children, our youth and our people, prevention initiatives are critical, both on and off-reserve and must be equitably funded.
- We must remove government mandated organizational parameters and increase the autonomy of those serving and supporting Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
- We are the experts in our own lives. Our ICFSAs carry nearly 40 years of knowledge and experience in working directly with children, youth and families and must be provided the autonomy to practice in the way that makes sense for their people. They require greater ability to develop and implement innovative and culturally rooted services specific to the needs of their communities.
- An equal partnership with ICFSAs is necessary to build a path towards reconciliation.
The full report will be released later this fall and the Indigenous Child & Family Services Directors Our Children Our Way Society will continue to work in partnership to advance responses to the Calls and to ensure that Indigenous voices are centered.
We raise our hands to the Indigenous families, communities and organizations who have never stopped fighting for justice for their sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunties, cousins, and loved ones. We recognize that days such as the National Day of Action or Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQIIA+ People are difficult ones which evoke the deep hurts, traumas and injustices inflicted upon Indigenous communities. Know that you do not stand alone in this fight.
For those who may require additional support during this time, you may reach out to the following organizations:
Support for Families Impacted by Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls
Toll-Free 24/7 Crisis Line: 1-800-721-0066
Toll-Free 24/7 Immediate Support Line: 1-844-413-5549
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Counselling Program
Toll-Free 24/7 Immediate Support Line: 1-855-242-3310