The Simpcw First Nation now has its unique practices, customs, laws, language and traditions integrated into a new child welfare agreement, Tcwesétmentem: Walking Together Agreement, the first of its kind in B.C.
“I feel a great sense of pride after a long journey with the Ministry of Children and Family Development to reach this agreement. I felt our ancestors guiding us in the creation of this new relationship that significantly changes practice and ensures our Nation’s support for the well-being of our members across British Columbia,” said Kúkpi7 (Chief) Shelly Loring. “This interim measure marks a significant milestone on our pathway toward implementing our inherent jurisdiction. I am especially pleased that our laws, customs and traditions are enshrined in this legally binding agreement through the meaningful inclusion of our Secwepemctsín (Shuswap language).”
Secwepemctsín is the traditional language of the Simpcw/Secwepemc people and the guiding force for culture and ways of being. The agreement, “Tcwesétmentem” [pronounced: Twa-set-men-tem] in Secwepemctsín means “walking together,” a name championed by language expert and Simpcw Elder Mona Jules, PhD, with assistance from Simpcw Language Manager, Charli Fortier.
Tcwesétmentem was signed Tuesday, April 12, 2022, between the Simpcw First Nation and the ministry. It will inform child welfare decision making and ensure the Simpcw First Nation is involved in the protection, planning and placement of Simpcw children and youth who come into contact with the child welfare system.
The agreement recognizes elements of the federal Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, and outlines how the Simpcw and the ministry will work together on assessments, investigations, plans of independence and plans of care, including placement decisions, to support the well-being of Simpcw families. The agreement also sets out how the ministry’s child welfare practice decisions will be informed by a Simpcw community designate to ensure the Simpcw worldview and cultural continuity are incorporated.
“It is our commitment to work with Indigenous communities to honour and affirm their inherent right to support and protect their children and families in ways that are aligned with their Nation’s beliefs, cultural practices, traditions and laws,” said Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development. “This new community agreement is the result of intensive consultation to understand the needs of the community in relation to their history and cultural heritage, and will shape how the ministry and Simpcw First Nation work together on child-welfare issues now and into the future.”
The signing took place in a ceremony preceded by opening prayers and featuring drumming and songs by children from the Neqweyqwelsten school. The signing of this agreement follows a journey of dialogue and negotiation spanning more than two years to redefine a new working relationship between the Simpcw and the ministry.
This first co-created agreement establishes a pathway for other Indigenous communities in B.C. to develop their own unique community agreements with the ministry. An annual review process is built into the agreement.
- On April 1, 2019, amendments to B.C.'s Child, Family and Community Service Act came into force to enable the ministry and Indigenous communities to enter into agreements, supporting greater collaboration in planning and carrying out services for children, youth and families.
- The federal Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families was passed in 2019 and came into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, to recognize Indigenous Peoples' jurisdiction over child and family services as part of an inherent right to self-governance; establish national standards in this area in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action Number 4; and contribute to the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- The Simpcwemc are part of the Secwépemc Nation, one of 17 bands that live in the Thompson River Valley.
- Simpcw First Nation has nearly 700 members, many of whom live in Simpcw, approximately 20 minutes from Barriere.
- Simpcw was recognized by the ministry on June 1, 2020, when the ministry recognized the Simpcw Chief and Council as an official Indigenous governing body (IGB) for the notice of significant measures under the federal act.
- Simpcw has also been recognized as an IGB by five other provinces and one territory.
- Simpcw considers this agreement an interim measure as they work through a community-driven process to exercise their inherent jurisdiction and legislative authority in relation to their children and families.
Learn more about B.C.’s Child, Family and Community Service Act: https://www.bclaws.gov.bc.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96046_01
On March 30, 2022, the Province released the Declaration Action Plan, developed in consultation and co-operation with Indigenous Peoples, outlining 89 specific actions every ministry in government will take to create a better province for Indigenous Peoples: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/government/ministries-organizations/ministries/indigenous-relations-reconciliation/declaration_act_action_plan.pdf
To learn more about the Simpcwemc and the Secwépemc Nation, visit: https://www.simpcw.com/
Read the federal Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families: https://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/F-11.73/page-1.html