Family services may soon be improving for Métis in British Columbia after the aboriginal group signed a historic memorandum of understanding to develop Métis-led “holistic, culturally appropriate” services for children and families, the provincial Ministry of Children and Family Development announced on February 27.
The agreement capped the Provincial Métis Child Welfare Visioning Forum, held in late February to develop an approach to these services that is distinctly Métis. Comprised of descendants from unions of fur traders and Native women, the Métis long struggled for official recognition as a separate aboriginal group.
“This agreement acknowledges [that] Métis people are in the very best position to lead the creation of culturally appropriate services for their communities,” said Mary Polak, Minister of Children and Family Development, in a statement from the agency. “Our vision is to see Aboriginal children and youth living in strong, healthy families and communities where they are connected to their culture.”
In the agreement, the parties recognize that the more than 60,000 Métis who live in British Columbia “have an important, distinct voice in British Columbia” and that it’s time to usher in a new era of collaboration between the Métis Commission for Children and Families, the Métis Nation B.C. and the ministry, the statement said.
“It is liberating to know that the Métis Commission, the Métis Nation of B.C. and the ministry share in a vision that speaks to healthy development outcomes for Métis children, youth and families—one that identifies the need to ensure the safety and well-being of Métis children at risk,” said Marlene Swears, president of the Métis Commission. “The renewed relationship is a step toward achieving self-determination through transformative action. It also provides a foundation to create solutions about the care and custody of Métis children through the development of a traditional Métis model of service delivery.”
David Hodgson, minister of Métis Children & Families for the Métis Nation of B.C., said the agreement and other measures are part and parcel of “our commitment to an open process that keeps the welfare of our Métis children and families at the centre of everything we do.”
Five service workers who work with at-risk Métis children and families witnessed the signing of the agreement, which was based on a 2007 MOU on child welfare. Efforts to develop on-task services for Métis children and their families through the Provincial Métis Child and Family Services Framework are thanks to a partnership between the Métis Commission, the Métis Nation B.C. and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the statement said.