Hadih Directors, Partners, Colleagues and Friends
I have been sitting at the Indigenous Child and Family Services Directors Table for over 16 years. Many of my colleagues have been here much longer than that. We stand on the shoulders of giants who broke trail to be the first Indigenous Child and Family Services Directors starting in the late 1980s with Deb Foxcroft and the establishment of Usma Nuu-chah-nulth Child and Family Services.
When I look at the meeting agendas and minutes, when I listen to our conversations of our initial Directors, it is so clear that we have already had these discussions over and over again. As I dust off “Liberating our Children, Liberating our Nations” it is so apparent the solutions have been in front of us, in front of government for years.
Three years ago we co-hosted the Walking Together Gathering which advanced promising practices in supporting Indigenous children, youth, families and communities. During our deliberations, the Representative for Children and Youth addressed delegates stating “once you know better, you must do better”. With the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Ruling and the recent Agreement in Principle no one in government, no citizen in Canada, can say we did not know better.
We are at an historic moment in time, and we have an opportunity to make fundamental change. We must move; we must step up to the challenge because we may only have this one opportunity and only for now.
I want to acknowledge our federal partners who have had the courage to make change, to push back against the system. When I think of what we have achieved in BC with our federal partners, it is because our partners have worked with us, have listened to us, and have taken a stand against the directives from headquarters, and have done things differently. This has resulted in true substantive change. Specifically, federally funded agencies participate in a business plan prevention funding model that is based on what our communities need, ensuring that prevention work is funded at actual costs. This is making a huge difference for our children and families.
But the business plan model is only for federal-funded agencies. Our sister agencies who care for our off-reserve relatives are being left out in the cold. This means that two Indigenous kids, one off-reserve and one on-reserve receive very different services. The discrimination against Indigenous kids continues, only now it has moved to the city, where so many of our relatives move for many different reasons.
This stark reality requires real leadership from the Province of BC. The kind of leadership that we witnessed on March 15th when BC announced post-majority services would be extended to the age of 27. This announcement, a first for Canada, proves the kind of leadership we have in B.C.
We understand that this is challenging and complex, however, that cannot be the reason we do not correct these inequities. With our federal partners, we have entered an era of long-term reform for Indigenous child and family services. We are seeking the same relationship with the Province. When we know better we do better, the time is now to do better and correct the funding gap for our off-reserve relatives.
Mary Teegee (Maaxw Gibuu), IMBA