The province says a milestone agreement is reached with the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations that will see them take back jurisdiction over protecting their children and families.
Signed between the Nations and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, it will also let them uplift their children based on their own laws and culture, according to the province.
They add it will help guide interactions, planning and decision-making specific to child welfare decisions and to support Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw children and youth to stay safely connected to their families, culture and community.
Community designates, appointed by Chief and Council and collaborating with the ministry will provide 24/7 support for child-welfare matters as the arise. The province adds the Nations will be fully involved in decisions that ministry directors make with their children and families.
Chief Terry Walkus says they look forward to making decisions in the best interest of their children.
“We as Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations are pleased with the signing of this agreement, as it is one step closer to self-governance and respecting our ways of doing things,” said Chief Walkus.
“We will be working closely with all families to ensure the return home of Gwa’sala and ‘Nakwaxda’xw children.”
The agreement represents a journey of dialogue and negotiations between the Nations and the ministry that began in November 2022. The province adds that while it is legally binding as of Wednesday, it will become operational provincewide in February next year.
“This agreement upholds the inherent right of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations to support their children and families in alignment with their distinct beliefs, cultural practices, traditions and laws,” said children and family development minister Mitzi Dean.
“Our ministry is honoured to demonstrate our commitment to supporting Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations to exercise their jurisdiction and build their vision for generations to come.”
The province adds the signing of the agreement aligns with section 4.17 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act Action Plan.