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Mike Garrett

Agency Hosts Screening of Residential School Documentary

By News

The Secwépemc Child and Family Services Agency (SCFSA) is hosting a screening of the film “For Love” at the Paramount in Kamloops on Wednesday, May 11, at 7 p.m.

Tickets will be $15, with $1 going to Kamloops Film Society and all subsequent profits going to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc — Le Estcwicwéy (The Missing).
Tickets will be available at the door and online: https://www.thekfs.ca/movie/6512/

The event will feature appearances by director, co-writer and co-producer Matt Smiley, as well as co-writer and co-producer Mary Teegee.

The film, which is narrated by Shania Twain, exposes the link between residential schools and the 29,000 Indigenous children and youth in Canada’s child welfare system.

“The horrors of residential schools are finally starting to be understood by non-Indigenous Canadians and Americans,” says producer Mary Teegee. “I wanted this movie to create awareness about the generational trauma caused by residential schools. But it also celebrates the resilience of our people, and shows how communities across the country are rebuilding family connections and rich cultures.”

TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnjib-DAfW8
MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Both Matt Smiley (Matt@smileysodapop.com) and Mary Teegee (mary@csfs.org) will be available for interviews before the screening.

St’uxtéws Winter Carnival 2022

By Videos
We were so happy to join our partners at Bonaparte First Nation (St’uxtéws) on Family Day weekend for a Winter Carnival, which featured fun activities for families and children, including ice fishing, skating and tobogganing.
Kukwstsétsemc to our partners at St’uxtéws for creating and sharing this thoughtful and visually stunning video of the Winter Carnival.

Meet Cindy Carusi

By Staff Spotlight

Many of you know Cindy Carusi as our ever-helpful, always cheerful Chief Financial Officer, but many of you might not know how passionate she is about reconnecting with her Secwépemc culture and language.
She is so passionate about it, in fact, that Cindy takes any chance she can to jump online and learn from the many Secwépemctsin teachers we have in the surrounding area.
An intergenerational survivor, Cindy’s mom was a Residential School survivor who saved Cindy’s sister from the same fate.
Cindy is also our latest winner of the Dr. Cindy Blackstock Award, which you can read about on the last two pages. Dr. Blackstock is also a woman Cindy describes as her hero.
Here’s a bit more about Cindy:

Q: What brought you to the agency?

A: I worked for Shuswap Nation Tribal Council as a student and we did the books for SCFSA. I always wanted to work here.
Q: How many years ago would that be?
A: 16

Q: What did you know about the agency before you were hired?

A: I like the idea of helping children, supporting our First Nations children. Just seeing the potential that people can have with the support, because not everyone has that kind of support in their life.

Q: Can you talk about your own family history?

A: My mom was a Residential School survivor, and she had nine brothers and sisters, all of whom were very close. And her nine brothers and sisters were almost removed by the child-welfare system. But her older sister and her sister’s husband took the kids and ran when they heard the child-welfare officials were on their way. My mom’s mom passed away when she was 14 so her older sister and brother-in-law took on that parenting responsibility.
My mom overcame many challenges having attended Residential School. She held anger, hurt and heartache, and she was still able to prevent my sister from being taken to Residential School. I may not have been taken because I was younger, but my sister for sure would have been taken. My mom took her and ran with her.

Q: Do you have memories of those times?

A: I do have memories from my childhood, both good and challenging ones, but I choose to focus on the good memories. Attending Residential School created a lot of different emotions for my mom, but for the most part she did an amazing job considering what she went through and she did everything she could to protect us. My mom was my best friend and helped me raise my two daughters.
Because of my mom’s experience with Residential School, she didn’t see the value in school. When I was in Grade 7, I quit school and she said, ‘That’s fine. If you don’t want to go there, you don’t have to,’ because she had such bad memories of school. I was allowed to quit school, but I had to go to work. So at 10 I went to work at the Oasis Hotel and then at 12 I went to work at the Husky waitressing a graveyard shift, and she was OK with that. I received my education in life and didn’t graduate from university until I was 40.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: I love the idea of what we’re doing for the children and families. I love that we are now able to offer Prevention services. I love the language and the cultural aspect, too, because I missed out on a lot of that as a kid. All of this is new to me, I’ve never had that in my life.
I take pride in making sure that this funding is protected. We want to make sure it goes to our people because that’s who it’s meant for.

Q: You talked about how Dr. Cindy Blackstock is your hero. Can you elaborate?

A: My first boss called us the poor cousins across the river. We had no funding, we couldn’t offer training, and we couldn’t offer raises. MCFD even offered us their used furniture. And then Cindy Blackstock took it upon herself to fight the federal government.
She’s just so fierce. Because of her we have all these programs — the cultural program, increased early years support for children. They say one to six is critical for a child’s development, so now we have a team of people working with our one- to six-year-olds. There are so many little ones who require support and now we can work with them. We couldn’t do that before. We had minimal funding, so we could help a triage of a few children and just skim the top of the need, but we’re doing so much work now and that’s because of her. She went to court but it wasn’t about money for her. It’s about helping our people.
She’s just amazing. She really is.
The Province is still funding our operations based on number of children in care with limited funding to support families and prevent children from entering care and that’s just discriminatory and wrong.

National Agreements In Principle Q&A Session

By Videos

On December 31, 2021, the Caring Society, the Assembly of First Nations, and the Government of Canada signed two Agreements-in-Principle to end discrimination in the First Nations Child and Family Services program, and to compensate children and families for the harms they have suffered.

This Question and Answer session, the third in the series, was hosted by the Indigenous Child and Family Services Directors Society. Visit  OurChildrenOurWay.ca for further information, resources, etc.

$40B Agreement Made Official

By News

The Secwépemc Child and Family Services Agency is pleased to hear news that the federal government has made official an agreement that sets aside $40 billion for Indigenous child welfare and to abide by a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling.

The CHRT ruling requires the government to pay up to $40,000 to Indigenous children and their families who were taken into foster care because of an underfunded on-reserve welfare system, retroactive to 2006. This compensation represents half of the $40 billion.

Parties have until March 31 to finalize the non-binding agreement.

Elements of the agreement include:

  • Compensation to First Nations children on-reserve and in the Yukon who were removed from their homes between April 1, 1991, and March 31, 2022.
  • Compensation to those affected by what the government called its “narrow definition” of Jordan’s Principle, used between Dec. 12, 2007, and Nov. 2, 2017.
  • Compensation extended to children who did not receive an essential public service or faced delays in accessing such services between April 1, 1991, and Dec. 11, 2007.
  • Providing support to youths aged out of care between the ages of 18 and 25, including those who are in that age bracket now.

“This historic agreement, while non-binding, is one step forward on the long road ahead in reforming the child welfare system and in ensuring substantive equity to all children and families impacted by this system,” says Yvonne Hare, SCFSA Executive Director. “Now we have to see if the federal government will make good on its promises.”

The SCFSA, as always, gives much appreciation to Cindy Blackstock, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, and the Assembly of First Nations for their efforts in pressuring the federal government to honour its commitment to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling.

Agency applauds decision to honour CHRT ruling

By News

The Secwépemc Child and Family Services Agency is applauding news that the Canadian government will set aside $40 billion for Indigenous child welfare and abide by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling.

The ruling requires the government to pay up to $40,000 to Indigenous children and their families who were taken into foster care as a result of an underfunded on-reserve welfare system. It is retroactive to 2006.

The money is to be distributed over the next five years starting with $16 billion by the end of this year.
The other half of the money will go toward reforming the child welfare system.

“We are relieved that the federal government has decided to come to the table and work towards a solution and we hope it will abandon its efforts to continue fighting children in court,” says Yvonne Hare, SCFSA Executive Director. “While victims of historical trauma can never fully heal, this is a good first step in addressing the wrongs that were done to the children who suffered at the hands of a cruel and racist system.”

The SCFSA gives much appreciation to Cindy Blackstock, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, and the Assembly of First Nations for their efforts in pressuring the federal government to honour its commitment to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling.

ABOUT US: The Secwépemc Child and Family Services Agency is an Indigenous-run child, youth and family agency that works in collaboration with Secwépemc communities to deliver family services that strengthen the family unit and uphold Secwépemc laws. Our work is guided by Secwépemc values.

BACKGROUNDER: Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Information Sheet

Framework of Practice Backgrounder

By News

SUMMARY/KEY POINTS

  • Introduce and provide information and gather feedback about this project
  • SCFSA strategic plan includes the creation of a framework of practice
  • The development of the framework must be lead and guided by our member communities and rooted in culture and language
  • This framework will guide agency practice in all service delivery areas

BACKGROUND
The SCFSA Strategic plan was completed by our board members representing their respective communities to guide our work over the next 5 years. Strategic Priority #2: Excellence identifies the development of a service delivery framework.
Timeline: February 1, 2021 – March 31, 2022

PROJECT MEMBERS

  • Yvonne Hare, SCFSA Executive Director
  • Natalie Clark and Jennifer Lewis, SCFSA contracted support
  • SCFSA assigned staff

WHAT ARE WE DEVELOPING?

  • A framework for cultural practice is a living document for the communities and SCFSA staff to ensure that Secwépemc cultural practices guides all aspects of organization. It will be informed by work that has already been completed within the Nation and communities and will ensure community direction and guidance. The document is a way of affirming Secwépemc teachings about family systems and raising Secwépemc children for SCFSA staff and communities.
  • Provide the vision and strategic directions for cultural practice for SCFSA.
  • Support Secwépemc communities to find their own answers to the question: How do we want to look after our children and youth? How can we keep our children and youth safe in their families?
  • Shape the kind of services that SCFSA provides. Guide the design of current and new support programs.
  • Set the mind frame and ethical orientation of the people who work with our children.

PROJECT COMPONENTS

Guidance and Direction

  • SCFSA Elder Advisory Committee
  • SCFSA Secwépemc Youth Steering Committee
  • SCFSA Community Band representatives

Community Engagement

  • Work with each band representative, elder advisor and youth steering committee member to plan and implement community engagement
  • Topic: How do you want SCFSA to practice with Secwépemc families/communities?

Gathering the Berries – Literature Review

  • Gathering work completed by Secwépemc people, communities, nation regarding children and families and cultural ways to inform the framework of cultural practice
  • Ensures that we utilize work completed already, with permission i.e. masters/PhD theses, community plans, reports, engagements, etc.

Secwépemc Art Book – “What is in my Heart”

    • Phase 1: Children and Youth
    • Phase 2: Parents – Aunts/Uncles
    • Phase 3: Grandparents
    • Participants will create art answering one of the following questions: I feel the most loved/safe/connected/proud when; What I love about my family/community; What I want to see for all children.
    • Art collected will be shared in a book to share and center the people’s voices in what is important to them.

SCFSA Mourns Passing of Founding Member Sandra Seymour

By News

We at the Secwépemc Child and Family Services Agency are saddened to hear about the passing of founding member and former longtime Board member Sandra Seymour. A leader for SCFSA for well over a decade on our board, Sandra made incredible contributions over the years to the children, families, and communities we serve.

As a social worker, Sandra had the idea to create an agency that would assist in protecting Indigenous children within the Secwépemc Nation. She envisioned that this agency would be led by the communities of the Secwépemc Nation, rather than an agency run by government. Sandra’s vision led to the inception of the SCFSA in 1999.

Sandra later sat as President on the SCFSA Board. As a member of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, she also served as Social Development Manager for TteS.

Sandra will be greatly missed and we will always keep her in the front of our minds as she joins her Secwépemc ancestors who guide our work at SCFSA.

 

2020 Dr. Cindy Blackstock Award winner: Lyle Thomas

By Newsletter

In 2018, with Dr. Cindy Blackstock’s permission, a Distinguished Service Award was created in her honour. Dr. Cindy Blackstock is tireless in her vision of improving the conditions for Indigenous children and families, notably in education, health care, and child protection. The Dr. Cindy Blackstock Service Award is given to an employee in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the children and families that are served by Secwépemc Child and Family Services and in appreciation for their commitment/dedication towards realizing Dr. Blackstock’s vision for all First Nations children.
This year, the third recipient of the Cindy Blackstock Award is Cultural Team Leader, Lyle Thomas.


Here’s what Renee Narcisse, Elder Coordinator, said about Lyle in her nomination: “Lyle Thomas is a great source of information for anyone who comes across his path. He has so much knowledge of our Secwépemc culture and is willing to share it with anyone who asks. With the help of others, he has created a powwow for the children and works tirelessly to ensure that no one is forgotten. He works at building community relations by hosting barbecues and is there to support when called upon, whether in the urban community or within the Secwépemc Nation. Lyle is above anything fair to those that he deals with, and he will assist whether it is a cultural issue or if a person is having trouble to understand issues that they may be dealing with. I have had the great fortune to work alongside Lyle for the past two and a half years and I learn something new all the time. He is committed to making situations better for everyone that he comes across. I always tell him, ‘You will probably forget more about culture than I will ever know.’ I am proud to work beside him and to learn from him. He makes coming to work fun and we always have a good chuckle in the morning. We support each other personally as well as professionally, and he makes me want to be a better person, to work harder for the people. I can go on forever about how having Lyle as a colleague has benefited our colleagues. I could go on forever, however, I hope that this is enough to put Lyle in the running for the Dr. Cindy Blackstock Award. He is a true role model for everyone.”