The Province of B.C. has recognized the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s jurisdiction over child welfare in a historic agreement reached last week.
The agreement will allow the Wet’suwet’en Nation to reclaim child welfare services in accordance with their traditional governance system. It’s a recognition that has been anticipated for several decades, explains Hereditary Chief Na’moks (John Ridsdale).
“Our chiefs, the ones that have passed on the names that we carry today; this was their directive. They never agreed with having child removal, they didn’t agree with the 60s scoop… they said the children belong at home no matter what… we cannot have a nation without future leaders – our future leaders are out there, and we need to look after them,” says Na’moks. “Sadly, many of our dinïze’ and ts’akë ze’ (male and female hereditary chiefs) did not live to witness this tremendous accomplishment of what they started.”
The Wet’suwet’en service and jurisdiction planning agreement announced by the Wet’suwet’en Nation, the Moricetown Band and the Hagwilget village council commits the parties to work together, paving the way to raise children and youth in a culturally-grounded way.
“No matter where the Wet’suwet’en child is they are still Wet’suwet’en. And that is a part of this agreement,” says Na’moks. “We are going to expand throughout the nation, and we’re going to get to the point where we have satellite programs in the lower mainland or in the east – because that’s where our children are.”
In 2010, the socio-cultural ANABIP program was created to provide services that connect youth and adults to Wet’suwet’en culture. Na’moks says the province now recognizes their approach to child wellness, and will allow for planning with the Wet’suwet’en.
“There cannot be anymore lost identity with the Wet’suwet’en. We steer the ship – we’ve asked the province of British Columbia to be passengers on that ship and help us go in the right direction for the betterment of our nation and our children.”
Na’moks also says the agreement goes directly in line with the Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa court case ruling that rights and title would never be extinguished, including jurisdiction.
Minister of children and family development Stephanie Cadieux says “this agreement represents good faith in our ability to work together to move towards a model where the Wet’suwet’en Nation can exercise full jurisdiction over child welfare.”
“This agreement epitomizes the direction Hagwilget village council in Grand Chief Ed John’s report and supports our mutual goal of protecting children and youth, while also ensuring the best possible outcomes – a goal that will be achieved through helping children and youth stay connected to their culture, traditions and communities.”