An independent panel appointed by the Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ Executive Council is recommending more funding and resources for child protection and family welfare services on the Huu-ay-aht First Nation.
Since 2016, the Huu-ay-aht First Nation said it has made a commitment to make sure children are safe, healthy and connected to their families. The executive council appointed the panel to provide the First Nation with recommendations to improve outcomes for children and families involved in the foster care system. The panel members included Kim Baird, former elected chief of Tsawwassen First Nation, Lydia Hwitsum, former elected chief of Cowichan Tribes and chair of First Nations Health Authority Board of Directors, Dr. Myles Blank, a psychiatrist who has worked with indigenous children, adults and families and Maegen Giltrow, legal counsel with experience in Huu-ay-aht laws and Treaty implementation.
On Thursday, the panel released 30 recommendations including a long-term commitment to dedicated funding for front-line services to support children and families.
“Throughout our interview process, we heard from Huu-ay-aht people who have come through great adversity—their own confrontations with addictions, violence and poverty—who, from the depths of their spirits, want to help other Huu-ay-aht people away from that pain, and to support today’s Huu-ay-aht children to be happy and safe,” the panel said in a statement.
“One cannot help children without supporting what is most important to children: their families.”
Other recommendations are to build supports for Huu-ay-aht people that will support them throughout their lifetime and ensure no one will age-out of care, and for children and families to make decisions first, supported by extended families, house groups and the First Nation. The panel said this will ensure decision-making shifts away from external agencies who use court-sanctioned removal decisions.
According to the panel, there should also be traditional support provided to families during times of transition. These transition times can when a child is taken into care, when a child has returned home of after a parent has undergone addiction treatment. The support can be counselling, co-parenting and other household support, anti-violence education, safe houses and traditional housing.
Two other recommendations are continued engagement with external agencies and other First Nations and renegotiating relationships with provincial and federal governments, so all three governments can work together.
The panel said the recommendations build upon recommendations made to the provincial government and federal government by the B.C. Representative for Children and Youth and by Special Advisor Grand Chief Ed John.
As a self-governing treaty nation, the Huu-ay-aht First Nation can act on the recommendations.
“It is important to us that we are creating a made-in-Huu-ay-aht solution to this problem,” Huu-ay-aht’s Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr said in a statement.
“Huu-ay-aht is once again leading the way and creating a world-leading approach that will create positive change that is greatly needed.”