Our Position at SOS Children’s Village BC on the Remains of 215 Indigenous Children Discovered in Unmarked Graves
As a non-Indigenous organization, working closely with Indigenous children, youth, and families, we understand and recognize that we have benefited from the impact of colonialism on Indigenous peoples and are striving to take responsibility for our role in Reconciliation.
The discovery of 215 children in unmarked graves in Kamloops has deeply affected Indigenous survivors of Residential Schools and has caused communities to revisit traumatizing pasts. We want to extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc Nation, and we also want to extend our commitment to Reconciliation as we work closely with Indigenous children in care. We hope that the Elders and families most impacted by this news can bring closure to the lives lost at this Residential School and that they can memorialize the lives and legacies found so that we can continue to learn from our history and our mistakes.
While the world turns to social media outlets, news, and reporting, we are trying to make sure our Indigenous communities are safe at this time. We are providing access to resources needed for their well being and a safe place they can turn to, when and if they require any support. As much as we are all concerned by this news, we are not the victims and we must act accordingly as allies to bring justice to all the injustice the Indigenous people of Canada have had to endure since the introduction of colonization. The focus at this time should be on the children, the families, and the First Nations grieving these losses.
The recent news has upset our communities, but this knowledge has been well known among Indigenous communities, and so does not come as a surprise to those who have been aware of Residential Schools and their long-term impact on the health and well being of First Nations in this country. As non-Indigenous individuals and as an organization, we have to do more to ensure we are utilizing our resources to benefit and aid in Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and continue the work that must be done to truly understand and walk beside Indigenous communities in solidarity and alliance.
For that reason, we want to encourage our community to consider the following:
- Although “Every Child Matters” is making headlines, we want to further challenge this statement. In the eyes of a non profit that has worked closely with children in care, we know that there is a high rate of Indigenous children who need alternative care as a direct result of the ongoing oppression of Indigenous peoples right from the beginning of Residential Schools. For this reason, SOS BC takes the position, as non-Indigenous settlers, that INDIGENOUS CHILDREN MATTER. This has not been the story for every child in Canada, it has been the true narrative of Indigenous children and exclusive to this community only. Yes every child matters, but every child is not having to endure the same hardship, history, and past as those who identify as Indigenous.
- Within Indigenous communities, it’s important to empathize the term “Every Child Matters”. For them, this holds true. Doesn’t every child matter, even those who identify as Indigenous? It should, but communities are asking, what about their Indigenous children? Aren’t they also ‘every child’ and deserve the same, if not more, rights and equalities in present day Canada? It’s important as non-Indigenous individuals that we understand the difference because these are not the realities Canadian families face, they are the realities of Indigenous families.
- Consider your role as an ally: Listen. Speak up, without taking space away from Indigenous people. Give Indigenous individuals the platforms that you carry as non-Indigenous settlers who have benefited from colonialism.
- Learn about your land and the local First Nations that these unceded territories rightfully belong to. Understand their use of land, their history, and their ongoing battle to be treated as equals. Some would be surprised to learn that our local Semiahmoo Nation only this year was able to get water hook ups from the city, prior to this the Nation was on a boil water advisory since 2005.
- Contact your MP and ask what they have been doing about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and how they plan on implementing this in their work.
- Hold the federal government and Catholic Church accountable for their history surrounding Indigenous peoples, Residential Schools, and the continued genocide of Indigenous peoples that is present through unjust systemic practices that still exist today. They must take responsibility and lead by example, while we continue to reconcile these injustices as non-Indigenous individuals and community members who have benefited from these systems.
Helpful resources to support your work as an ally in Reconciliation:
- National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
- Health and helplines to share with Elders and survivors
National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society: 1-800-721-0066
Indian Residential Schools Program (First Nations Health Authority)
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action
United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children
SOS Children’s Villages Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children
SOS Children’s Villages in the System of Alternative Care in Western Europe & North America
TRAUMA INFORMED CARE AT SOS CHILDREN’S VILLAGE BC
As soon as a child has to be removed from the care of biological parents and placed in the foster care system, we acknowledge that there is clear trauma from that experience, and from past experiences the child has gone through leading up to that event.
We are setting an example to other provincial agencies and SOS Children’s Villages around the world when it comes to recognizing trauma that children have experienced, how it affects their behaviour, and therapeutic methods that are informed by trauma knowledge. We don’t assume to know what’s best for a client, we meet each person where they’re at, by creating a safe environment and working together through the healing process.
The 4 pillars of the trauma informed therapy and programs we provide include the following.
EQUITY & DIVERSITY POLICY AT SOS CHILDREN’S VILLAGE BC
We are committed to developing a diverse organization that is reflective of and responsive to the diversity of Canada, in which women and men, in all their diversities, feel respected, confident, and valued. But we recognize that equity means more than treating people in the same way; it requires special measures, accommodation of differences, and empathy towards past trauma.
To ensure fairness, measures are often needed to compensate for historical and social disadvantages that prevent, for example, women and men from otherwise operating as equals. We also give preference to Indigenous job applicants. We acknowledge that our organization will better reach its overall goals if it is successful in systematically identifying and removing barriers to full participation in all aspects of our work.
Diversity: The visible and invisible differences that exist among people, including but not limited to, gender identity, race, ethnic origin, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation or identity, culture, age, economic class, language, religion, nationality, education, and family/marital status. These visible and non-visible differences among people can also lead to differences in experiences, values, attitudes and ways of thinking, behaving, communicating and working.
A MESSAGE FROM THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
SOS Children’s Village BC celebrates diversity and strongly believes in the strength of our communities. We do not see differences between individuals regardless of religion, race, creed, or culture. Because of this, SOS Children’s Village BC does not tolerate any abuse or harassment of any kind directed towards any of our staff or community members including physical and/or online environments.
Stress and heightened emotions during a crisis can exacerbate bullying, but that doesn’t excuse it. As a non-profit focused on our mission and ensuring our objectives are met, situations of this nature are investigated, responded to appropriately, and taken seriously. A nature of silence is one we do not encourage and we hope to model for all of those involved with our organization, including the children and youth we are directly connected to.
ADVOCACY POSITION STATEMENT FOR COVID-19
A call to action from SOS Children’s Villages International: Protecting children without or at risk of losing parental care
This position statement presents the key asks that are necessary to ensure that the rights and needs of children without or at risk of losing parental care are prioritized by national, regional, and international governments as they embrace measures to mitigate the short and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world.
Given their multidimensional conditions of vulnerability that could lead to a downward spiral in the context of the projected socio-economic crises, we ask that:
- Child welfare and protection services, and their staff be designated as essential and resourced accordingly.
- Social protection services that support families’ income and well being are scaled up.
- Inter-agency coordination delivering services to the community is strengthened.
- Safeguarding prevention and support is redoubled to preempt and promptly address increased risks of abuse, violence and neglect.
- Progress achieved in quality in alternative care is not jeopardized, but rather enhanced.
- Support and protection of care leavers is scaled up.
- Children on the move are protected and their access to adequate care as national children is ensured.
Children without or at risk of losing parental care are among the most vulnerable. Young people aging out of care and transitioning into independent living are facing extremely fragile situations. Some of them are losing their jobs and lack protections and safety nets to survive. Some are unable to connect remotely to continue their education, and may lack the resources and family support to overcome the anxiety and uncertainty that the isolation and lockdown may create.
- According to some estimates, the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could push half a billion more people into poverty unless urgent action is taken
- Up to 75% of people in least developed countries lack access to soap and water and income losses are expected to exceed $220 billion
- Over 89% of the students currently enrolled worldwide in education are out of school because of COVID-19 closures (as of May 2020) – representing 1.54 billion children and youth enrolled in school or university
- 300 million primary school children who depend on school meals are missing out due to closures triggered by the coronavirus pandemic
- SOS Children’s Villages estimates that approximately 10% of all children (1 in 10) worldwide are at risk of losing or have already lost the care of their family
SOS Children’s Village BC
Locally, as the pandemic unfolds, SOS Children’s Village BC has been able to take action and practice this call to action by sustaining the kids and youth at our Village and meeting their needs. We are advocating for the children and their caregivers and shifting how we support our families according to the seven points above.
It’s important to note that unlike some SOS Children’s Villages around the globe, here in British Columbia we work with kids who are in continuing custody care and long term foster care.
SOS Children’s Villages stands ready to share our expertise and do our part to secure the rights of all children without parental care. We can only complete this call to action with your support and in collaboration with the global community. We need to come together to help every child to build a future, support every family to stay strong, and strengthen the well-being of societies.