A new agreement bringing child and family services more closely under the control of the five Northern Secwepemc communities was announced Tuesday, Nov. 19.
The Commitment Protocol Agreement addresses how the signatories will work together to ensure brighter outcomes for Northern Secwepemc children in care and a more hopeful future for children and youth in general.
It is the first time the parties have come together in a formal relationship to script how they aim to keep children at the heart of plans and decisions as they apply to each of the communities.
The parties also agree to continue exploring governance models and funding options.
The agreement solidifies a relationship between the five Northern Secwepemc communities, the Stsmémelt Project Working Group, the Knucwentwecw Society and the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
“We know what’s best for the children in the communities, and we are accountable for our people,” Tsq’escen’ Chief Mike Archie said. This agreement is an important step in taking back our rightful place as the governing bodies for our children.”
The five Northern Secwepemc communities of Tsq’escen’ (Canim Lake), Stswecem’c/Xgat’tem (Canoe & Dog Creek), Xat’sull (Soda & Deep Creek), T’exelc (Williams Lake a.k.a. Sugar Cane), and Esk`etemc have agreed to take a joint approach to address child welfare issues and will work together to advance child welfare best practices with the local delegated agency and the provincial government as partners.
“This is about a way forward. In the past we have had a foreign government and foreign policy that destroyed our culture and language, our rights as Aboriginal people,” Archie said.
Leadership will promote community participation with the Knucwentwecw Society and the local MCFD office to encourage culturally based programs and services.
This will be done by developing and supporting a new service delivery structure and specific outcomes which suit the Northern Secwepemc.
The result will be that language, traditions, customs and beliefs of the nation will be part of programs while also celebrating and sharing who the Northern Secwepemc are as a Nation.
Chief Bev Sellars of Xat’sull said: “This agreement creates accountability. If there’s a child from the nation, it will be clear how that child can be served and how their needs will be met. It’s about getting better outcomes for kids.”
The next step for the signatories is to look at options leading to full jurisdiction and authority and thus achieving the best outcomes for Secwepemc children.