WEST KELOWNA, B.C. – Protesters gathered at Premier Christy Clark’s constituency office Tuesday afternoon in support of aboriginal child welfare rights.
About 50 members of Okanagan aboriginal communities, including the Splatsin Nation from Enderby, chanted and drummed at the protest. They are concerned about the province taking care of their children instead of being care for by First Nations.
The Splatsin Indian Band and Chief Wayne Christian are suing the B.C. government, looking to have their right to self-govern their social welfare enforced by the courts. The B.C. government granted aboriginal communities jurisdiction over their own child welfare on this date in 1980.
Christian says their agreement has not been fulfilled.
“The grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles don’t have “a legal right” to the child, that’s what the minister says,” says Christian. “No. Our system is different than yours. They have a right to be there for that child.”
“Their system is not working,” says Christian of the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development, which operates on a $1.39 billion annual budget. “It’s failing our children and families miserably and they’ve got to change what they’re doing.”
Christian says more than half of B.C. foster children are aboriginal, but First Nations communities receive no funding to manage social welfare as they see fit.
“It’s going to be enough when we can take care of our own, bottom line,” he says. “It’s not about money. People think it’s about money. It’s the ability to look after our own laws and our own processes.”
The B.C. government has yet to file a response to the Splatsin lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday.
Christian says they are planning province-wide protests in November.