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Our Children Our Way Society Meets with New Minister

NEWS RELEASE – Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) Territory

The Our Children Our Way Society extends our gratitude to the political leaders who joined us on March 7th at our Partnership Forum in Victoria. The Honourable Grace Lore and her Deputy Minister, David Galbraith, represented the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development. Hugh Braker and Cheryl Casimer represented the First Nations Leadership Council.

The Partnership Forum, in existence for more than 20 years, brings together leaders of the 24 Indigenous Child and Family Service agencies in BC with representatives from Indigenous Services Canada and from the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development. The Partnership table carries a long history of advocacy regarding the well-being of Indigenous children, youth, families, and communities

The Our Children Our Way Society holds great hope that the new Minister and Deputy Minister bring a fresh opportunity to work together to safeguard the best interests of Indigenous children, youth, and families throughout BC.

While gathered, Mary Teegee, Chair of the Our Children Our Way Society, had the opportunity to highlight some of the longstanding gaps within BC’s Indigenous child welfare system, many of which have gone without resolve for the entire existence of the Partnership table, including: inequitable funding that discriminates against off-reserve Indigenous families; and a lack of resources to address the dual crises of mental health and toxic drugs.

“There are momentous opportunities ahead of us as our Nations breathe life into their own laws and we resume our rightful place in the lives of our children and families. This is an exciting and historic time, but we cannot forget that it is during times of transition that vulnerable children face the greatest risks. In addition to this increased risk, we are also dealing with the catastrophic effects of the drug toxicity crisis. We are losing so many beautiful lives.”

Hugh Braker affirmed that “the First Nations Summit stands beside and with Our Children Our Way in their struggle to get equitable funding for off-reserve children.”

We are encouraged by the Minister’s thoughtful responses to the questions and comments posed to her, and by her acknowledgment that all children everywhere in the province deserve access to supports and services that meet their needs.

We appreciate the Minister’s commitment to continue working collaboratively with Indigenous leaders and experts to establish a new Indigenous Director of Child Welfare—a position that the Our Children Our Way Society calls on to have a strong mandate to achieve substantive equality for all Indigenous children in BC and that is accountable to Indigenous communities.

We are also hopeful that the Minister will consider our recommendation to convene a cross-ministry table to address the opioid crisis.

We look forward to working with Minister Lore and her ministry to achieve our shared vision of thriving Indigenous children, youth, families, and communities.

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For further comment, please contact: Mary Teegee, Chair, Our Children Our Way Society, Phone: 250-612-8710