Nations in British Columbia sign agreement to take over jurisdiction of child welfare

Simpcw and Gitsegukla Nations traded sockeye salmon to celebrate the signing of the first co-created child welfare agreement in British Columbia’s history.

Gitsegukla First Nation Chief Counsellor Anne Howard stood with hereditary chiefs from her nation at the declaration ceremony on March 15 in Prince George, B.C., saying that the deal was for their children.

“I’m honoured to stand with you today in this historic signing in two nations working together for our children and our children and future generations,” she said.

Speaking to a large crowd, Simpcw First Nation chief George Lampreau said he is grateful the two nations are working together.

“It’s been a long road, but here we are sharing this agreement with another amazing nation that has been trendsetters for the rest of the country, not only here in B.C. but across Canada,” he said.

Last year, Simpcw signed the Tcwesétmentem: Walking Together Agreement with B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development.

It ensured the nations would be involved in planning, protecting, and placing their children in contact with the child welfare system.

Gitsegukla is a Gitxsan community located west of Hazelton, B.C and were part of the historic Delgamuukw Supreme Court of Canada case that helped define Aboriginal title in Canada 25 years ago.

At the news conference, both nations shared that their traditional laws will guide how they look after their children and families.

Gitsegukla Chief Howard said she was happy her nation could be trendsetters again.

“I am so happy to be able to witness today what is a happening that is taking place for the first time in B.C.; it doesn’t surprise me that Gitxsan Delgamuukw is part of it,” said Howard.

Chief Lampreau said their elders encouraged them to include other nations to strengthen their ties.

He said Simpcw and Gitsegukla have children who are currently members of both nations, so they are better equipped to support them.

“Any dispute with the children, we know how we are going to work together, we know what we are going to do, and we are going to do that in a respectful manner like we always did business,” he said. “Our laws were displaced, they have always existed, and we’re here to revive them, that is what this ceremony is about, bringing our laws back.”

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