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Cowichan Tribes sign historic agreement on path to creating Child and Family Services Authority

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It’s the signing of a historic agreement between Cowichan Tribes, the federal government and the provincial government. It will see the province’s largest First Nation take back its inherent right to self determination.

“It means a lot to our people to keep our family units together, to keep our kids with our families, to learn their language and their culture,” said Chief Cindy Daniels, Cowichan Tribes.

The four-year agreement will see the federal government commit $207 million and the province will pitch in $22 million, allowing Cowichan Tribes to establish its own Child and Family Services Authority. It will be overseen by a board of directors and a CEO that has not yet been hired.

“It’s extremely poignant for me to stand here in front of you to try to make amends for a country that has brought so much harm on people and on families,” said Patty Hajdu, federal minister of Indigenous services.

The new authority will ensure that if a child has to be removed from their home, that youth will be put into the custody of someone within the Cowichan Tribes community. That youth will either be placed with a family member outside of the home or with a separate family within the Cowichan Tribes community.

“We know that kids are best served when kids are connected to family community culture,” said Grace Lore, B.C.’s minister of children and family services.

“We are leaving behind the practice of child apprehension and placements that have alienated children from their families and community for generations,” said Daniels.

Through the new authority backstops will be established for families facing hard times such as poverty, inadequate housing, substance misuse or mental health issues.

“This holistic Cowichan approach focuses on enabling family wellness, respecting our children’s best interests and ensuring our teachings and values are passed down to future generations,” said the Cowichan Tribes chief.

It’s been a long road getting to this historic point for the local First Nation. There has been years of negotiations with multiple levels of government and that led to a vote by the community last November.

Eighty-three per cent voted in favour of establishing it’s own Child and Family Services Authority.

“15 or 20 years ago, who would have thought that today would happen?” said Daniels. “Who would have thought that they would have listened to our voice?”

Monday was a day of celebration for Cowichan Tribes as members say now the hard work will begin to create a framework that will set it’s children up for success, all while maintaining its rich First Nation culture. 

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