Chilliwack, BC – This past Saturday, two representatives from the BC Métis Federation attended a conference put on by the Chilliwack Métis Association regarding Métis children and family services in BC. The guest speaker at the one day conference was Eva Coles, representative from the Métis Commission for Children and Families (Métis Commission). The predominant message throughout the day was that our children will do best when they are left to be raised by their Métis community. There was a display of Métis jigging and fiddling along with plenty of good food. However the main focus of the event was to create discussion around how to address the high numbers of Indigenous, including Métis children in the care of the ministry.
There was a touching and informative presentation given by the father of Nick Lang, a Métis child who died in care in 2016. Nick’s parents continue to tirelessly work to create change within government so that kids like Nick can be protected in the future.
Métis Commission representative Ms. Coles presented a well rehearsed script about how the Métis Commission was trying to keep children out of the care of the Director. When questioned concerning how the Commission is funded or what her role on the Exceptions Committee was she was vague in her responses. In the view of the BC Métis Federation we have seriously questioned the role of the Métis Commission and who they are accountable to. This was evident in the fight of Federation member “SS” that remains a tragic and outstanding case today.
The fact is the Métis Commission is funded by the Provincial Government via the Ministry for Children and Family Development (MCFD) and is under contract “not to fetter the decision of the Director”. While the Métis Commission claims to want to help Métis families, in cases such as with Métis child SS, this organization not only ignored the wishes of the BC Métis Federation membership and our Métis community but actively worked to ensure that a Permanent Custody Order was granted to the Director. While Ms. Coles claimed that they go to court to advocate on behalf of Métis children, when questioned if she would be willing to advocate for SS, she declined.
The question we have today from the BC Métis Federation is whether the Métis Commission represents the legal interests of Métis people relating to the critical services of children and families throughout BC? Do Métis people realize that according to the Métis Commission and the BC Government the Métis Ciommission holds the power siting on an Exceptions Committee which determines for our Métis communities whether or not it is ok to send our Métis children to non-Aboriginal homes? The Commission has signed a contract with the Provincial Government to establish themselves as the sole organization to speak for all Métis children of BC. This Commission is not serving the interests of our Métis children and communities and they do not speak for our BC Metis Federation community. They are in a
conflict of interest situation in our view on these critical issues when decisions are made congtrary to the wishes of our Métis community and it is clear once again by the responses this past weekend that the Métia Commission is not able to effectively stand for all Métis people because of their contractual obligations.
BC Métis Federation President Henry stated; “we assert that Métis people have the right to self determination and the right to carry on customs and traditions that have been occurring before Canada came to be. These Métis rights include custom adoption agreements and the right to determine within our communities how to protect and raise our children without government interference. These rights are protected under the Constitution Act 1982. We have never traded away these rights. It is time to put a stop to allowing government appointed agencies to speak on our behalf as to who should raise our children.“
BC Métis Federation President Henry added; “We alone will make that determination as a community and the Federation is working toward that end with the creation of a Department of Child Welfare.”
BC Métis Federation President Henry concluded; “We thank the Chilliwack Métis Association for their work to arrange this important conversation this past weekend. It was a valuable opportunity to network, fellowship, and inform our Métis community, regardless or political affiliation. Together we can and will change the course for our Métis children. But we must work together, united in our mission, and not rely on government agencies. It is time for change and the BC Métis Federation is ready to stand for all of our children and families and to work alongside all Métis for the benefit of our future generations.”
For more information about the BC Métis Federation go to www.bcmetis.com.
Keith Henry, President
BC Métis Federation
Vancouver, BC V5R 5W2
You can follow BC Métis Federation President Keith Henry on twitter @keithhenryMetis
You can follow BC Métis Federation on twitter @BCMétis