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Splatsin advance legal, political fight for jurisdiction over children in care

The Splatsin First Nation served the province with a notice of claim Oct. 13, 2015 outside Premier Christy Clark's West Kelowna constituency office.
Image Credit: Aaron Leon
February 15, 2016 - 6:30 PM

ENDERBY - The Splatsin First Nation is pressing on with a lawsuit against the B.C. government with the hope it will see children returned to the community’s care.

Splatsin chief Wunuxtsin Kukpi7 Wayne Christian says court documents have been filed from both parties since the band served the province with a notice of claim during an October 2015 rally outside Premier Christy Clark’s constituency office in West Kelowna. The band accuses the province of ignoring a unique child welfare bylaw established in 1980 which gave the Splatsin jurisdiction over its children.

The Splatsin’s community-based system involves children, their parents and grandparents, and focusses on rebuilding the family, Christian says. The Ministry of Children and Family Development is supposed to notify the band immediately when a file is opened and transfer that file back to them, Christian says, but for the past several years that hasn’t been happening.

“Lately the provincial government has been insisting and pushing their jurisdiction on our children,” Christian says. “Enough is enough, we want our children back.”

The band has five court cases open right now for children’s files that were not transferred back to the band, Christian says.

There are more than 7,200 children and youth in care in B.C., of which 60 per cent are First Nations. Pointing to tragedies like that of 18-year-old Alex Gervais who jumped, or fell, out of a hotel room window in Abbotsford, Christian says the province’s child welfare system is letting down all children.

As litigation moves ahead with the province, Christian has also attempted to engage with the federal government. With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first five recommendations focussed on child welfare, Christian decided to send a letter to the federal government outlining its unique bylaw, which he believes is the only one of its kind in the country.

“The recommendations call on the federal government to do specific things. Some of them we’re already doing, so we’re putting our hand up to say we can help with this,” Christian says.

However, Christian has not received a response to the letter, sent over a month ago.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” Christian says. “We talked about real change in the election. We want to see that on the ground.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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