Penticton Indian Band members marched and sang, holding signs calling out what they say is systemic racism in the child welfare system. (Mark Brett/Western News)

70 from PIB march on child welfare office

Marchers calling for better co-operation to keep children in the community when family issues arise

Members of the Penticton Indian Band marched on the Ministry of Children and Family Development offices Friday morning to demand a more co-operative relationship.

Organizers of the march say until a couple of months ago, MCFD worked with the band to keep children in the community.

Related: PIB group marching on child welfare offices

Since the change of government staff, they say they have seen child welfare workers coming onto band land without contacting band staff, twice attempting to apprehend children.

“These actions have put our most vulnerable people in turmoil,” organizer Inez Pierre said, comparing the child welfare system with residential schools. “One hundred fifty years, it’s been a failed colonial system that’s not working for our children. This is unacceptable and we request that the MCFD meet at the earliest convenience.”

Pierre said she found it uplifting to see nearly 70 marching Friday morning, having expected around 20 people to show up.

Among those in attendance was PIB Chief Chad Eneas, Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie, Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis, Upper Similkameen Indian Band Chief Charlotte Mitchell and representatives of the First Nations Health Authority.

“We’re here because their future should be just as good as anyone else’s. The gaps that exist in this country today are a disgrace,” Eneas said.

Related: Youth sees link between foster care, youth homelessness in Canada

In all, Pierre said she felt the meeting with MCFD staff was successful, and she felt both sides showed respect for the other — and she said that is the key to the relationship they hope to rebuild with the ministry.

“(It was) very successful in terms of having them come out and meet us at their office. That’s a good sign, usually the doors are locked and we are unable to go in,” she said.

“I think that everybody has a good sense of, going away, that we accomplished something, because we’re generally never heard. We’re generally hung up (on), or whatever it is. We just feel heard at this time, anyway.”

Joan Phillip, a grandmother in attendance, said she wanted to see the province removed from the equation, and allow the community to deal with family issues itself.

Related: ’60s Scoop deal to compensate victims, fund reconciliation foundation

You don’t have to drive far to get to an example of where that is practiced, she said.

“In the United States, the Colville Confederated Tribes, and they do have absolute control over their children, because of the United State sand the way they configured (it),” Phillip said. “But that was taken from us.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Joan Phillip’s husband, was among those taken from his home, and put into foster care in the mid-20th Century, often referred to as the ‘60s Scoop.

“The apprehension of children doesn’t allow us to learn language, culture and our ways, and (Stewart Phillip) missed out,” Joan Phillip said. “Unlike the residential schools, you go alone. He went alone. He didn’t have other members of the community to interact with.”

Related: Help promised for Aboriginal child care

When the now-grand chief’s father came looking for him, only then did he realize his father wasn’t the drunk purported to him by the foster care system, she said.

In a statement, Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy said senior staff in the ministry would be willing to sit down with members of the PIB leadership to address concerns.

“We are implementing Grand Chief Ed John’s recommendations to provide better supports and keep Indigenous children in the care of their families and communities,” Conroy said.

“And we’re working with Indigenous and Métis communities to understand what they need most and how we can work together to improve the lives of children and families in B.C.”


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

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PIB members of all ages attended Friday morning’s march, from young children to mothers and fathers to grandmothers and grandfathers. (Mark Brett/Western News)

About 70 people in total were marching on the Ministry of Children and Family Development Friday morning, calling for better co-operation between the ministry and PIB to keep children in the community when issues arise. (Mark Brett/Western News)

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