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Simpcw and Gitsegukla announce co-operation on self-determined family services

Declaration serves families that live outside home territory or belong to two nations
Gitsegukla Chief Annie Howard says the declaration honours those who fought for self-determination rights. (Image: Simpcw First Nation.)

The Simpcw First Nation and Gitsegukla First Nation created a declaration to work together on child and family welfare, after Elders raised concerns that some members would be left behind by Canada’s approach to jurisdictional conflicts.

On March 15, the two nations signed the declaration to recognize each other’s commitment to respect and uphold each nation’s child welfare jurisdiction.

“Our Elders instructed us to go work with other Nations and develop an agreement that sets out our own self-determined path forward, which today we have achieved,” Simpcw Chief George Lampreau said in a statement.

During the ceremony, the Gitsegukla First Nation traded salmon for the Simpcw First Nation’s child and family welfare self-determination agreement with the province, which was signed in April, 2022. The Tcwesétmentem — also known as the Walking Together Agreement — was the first child welfare agreement co-created by a First Nation in the province.

Elders had told Lampreau their concerns about the federal government’s rules on First Nations’ jurisdiction over child and family services. The rules that the First Nation with “stronger ties” to a child will provide them services creates conflicts between Indigenous nations, Lampreau said in the statement.

The stronger ties provision also does not account for First Nations families of dual ancestry and Simpcw families which live in another nation’s territory, he added.

For example, Simpcw Councillor Allison Green’s husband is a member of the Gitxsan Nation, so her children have ties to both nations.

“It is especially important to me that my children and family have connections to both Nations and opportunities to learn, practice and enjoy both cultures and spend time on both territories,” she said in the statement.

Gitsegukla Chief Annie Howard said the declaration between the two nations prompted her to remember the hard-fought court battles for First Nations’ self-determination, such as Delgamuukw v British Columbia. In that case, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized and defined Aboriginal title under Canadian law.

Howard was filled with happiness remembering the hereditary chiefs who fought for that ruling, she said in the statement.

“We honour them through the exercise of our traditional trade and enter this Declaration to self-determine how we will work with other Nations based on our Ayook (laws) for the well-being and best interests of our children and families.”

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About the Author: Morgana Adby, Local Journalism Initiative

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