Improving the well-being of Indigenous children and families is a priority for the Cowichan Tribes, the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia.
Chief William Seymour of the Cowichan Tribes joined Katrine Conroy, B.C.'s Minister of Children and Family Development and Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations in signing a letter of understanding (LOU) to support the development of a framework and process for Cowichan Tribes to exercise their jurisdiction over child and family services for their members. Seamus O’Regan, federal Minister of Indigenous Services, signed the agreement on Jan. 24, 2019, in the presence of a witness from Cowichan Tribes.
This LOU between Canada, British Columbia and the Cowichan Tribes provides a framework that charts the path forward in recognizing and implementing Cowichan jurisdiction over their child and family services. Its signing directly responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Action #4, which calls upon the Government of Canada to affirm the right of Indigenous governments to maintain their own child and family services agencies.
Chief William Seymour, Cowichan Tribes –
“Cowichan Tribes sees the signing of this LOU as an important step towards recognizing our inherent jurisdiction over our children. Children and families are central to who we are as Cowichan people. As such, we have always had teachings and laws that govern our responsibilities to our children. We look forward to the day when our laws pertaining to children are stood up and recognized by the federal and provincial governments.”
Seamus O’Regan, federal Minister of Indigenous Services –
“Working together in partnership, we can create a better future for Cowichan Tribes children and families. This letter of understanding is an important step forward in reforming child and family services, ensuring that Cowichan Tribes can exercise their jurisdiction and care for their children in their communities, according to their culture and traditions.”
Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations –
“The well-being of their children and youth is the priority of the Cowichan Tribes and their most important resource. This letter of understanding is a recognition by the Government of Canada of the Cowichan Tribes' right to exercise jurisdiction over the protection, care and nurture of their children according to their traditions and culture.”
Katrine Conroy, B.C.'s Minister of Children and Family Development –
“This agreement with the Cowichan Tribes and the federal government is a major step forward as we work hand in hand to keep families together in the best interest of children and youth. Indigenous children, like all children, deserve to grow up in safe, loving homes, connected to their community and culture. We are committed to working collaboratively and respectfully with Indigenous communities to make a positive difference for families.”
Scott Fraser, B.C.'s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –
“We're working together with First Nations to get child and family services back where they belong — in the hands of families and communities who can nurture the social and cultural bonds that help children flourish and thrive. Reconciliation is a journey and this agreement with the Cowichan Tribes is another step on our road together.”
- Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem Child and Family Services has delegated authority to administer child and family services for all on-reserve Cowichan Tribes members.
Cowichan Tribes: www.cowichantribes.com