The leadership of the nine south island First Nations and urban Aboriginal community, known as the South Island Wellness Society and the Province of B.C. signed a historic accord today that will forge a relationship to design and develop an Indigenous child services system for the care and protection of Aboriginal children, youth and families in the region.
"This historic agreement solidifies our partnership with First Nations and our commitment to families in British Columbia," said Premier Christy Clark. "Together we have a vision of an integrated and holistic children and families services system based on the strengths, customs and traditional practices for the care and well-being of Aboriginal children and youth. That's what this accord accomplishes."
The Child and Family Wellness Accord was signed by Premier Clark, Minister of Children and Family Development Mary McNeil, nine South Island Chiefs from Pauquachin Nation, Esquimalt Nation, Tsartlip First Nation, Tseycum First Nation, T'Sou-ke First Nation, Beecher Bay First Nation, Tsawout First Nation, Songhees First Nation and Pacheedaht First Nation and the Victoria Native Friendship Centre.
"This agreement formalizes not only the political commitment of our nations and the Province to work together for our children, but more importantly, this day stands as a sacred commitment to our ancestors, to our children and families of today and to our future generations that as leaders for our nations, the care and protection of our children and families has and will always be at the centre of our work, our hearts and our nations," said Chief Bruce Underwood, Pauquachin First Nations and chair of South Island Wellness Society.
This accord recognizes that First Nations on the South Island are in the best position to lead the creation of a culturally based service system for the care and protection of Indigenous children, families and communities. The agreement will be carried out through annual work plans between the chiefs and government.
"The partners of this accord share the commitment to restore, revitalize and strengthen the services in an effort to address the gaps and socio-economic barriers impacting the well-being of Aboriginal children and families," said McNeil. "Our shared vision is to see Aboriginal children and youth living in strong, healthy families and communities where they remain connected to their culture and traditions."
"This accord is the result of years of collaboration and partnership between the South Island First Nations and the B.C. government," said Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Mary Polak. "Led by the communities themselves, this agreement will uphold the traditional practices for the care and protection of the Aboriginal children and families of this region."
The accord is founded on the 2008 commitment made under traditional Coast Salish law between First Nations and the Province to work together for children. Since that time, significant work has been done to reach the signing of this accord.
Office of the Premier
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Children and Family Development