The Mohawks of Akwesasne are expanding support for child welfare services into the neighbouring city of Cornwall.
Akwesasne Representative and Advocacy Program opened its doors to Mohawk children and families living off-reserve.
“We want to teach them, what it means to be from Akwesasne and that’s the thing, some of the children don’t know their clan, they don’t know their family, every one of us that work here, we can tell you who you’re related to, how you’re related to.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new location on April 25 was attended by a small group of dignitaries, including Grand Chief Abram Benedict, and Anne Scotton, Director General of Indigenous Services Canada.
The program will provide culturally appropriate supports and services to children and families in the process of being adopted or who have been apprehended.
Officials say it’s about helping to reconnect with the community.
It’s a result of a $40 billion settlement announced in January that’s meant to settle child welfare claims.
Twenty billion is to be used for program reform over the next five years across Canada, this is to allow First Nations to provide services, so children and youth can be in touch with their families, communities and culture.
Something that’s extremely important said Benedict, “the recent ruling of the child welfare case has brought some additional resources but also has identified gaps that exist for our community members who opt to be on-reserve but unfortunately are not, so the office here will provide additional services to our members who are living off-reserve but also are transitioning back onto the reserve”.
Anne Scotton, regional director at Indigenous Services commends the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne for its work to expand the program to off-reserve, she says it’s an essential step for First Nations communities in caring for their children.
“This is key, this is a truly phenomenal advancement in the way that band representative services are offered, many, many communities have services and have had a limited range of services but the way this is organized really offers service to every member of the community, no matter where they find themselves and no matter what their circumstances are,” she said.
Benedict said he’s more than happy to work with any communities wishing to follow the Mohawk Councils’ advocacy model.