Reconciliation and Decolonization
Policy Statement on Reconciliation
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was created and mandated to address the legacy of Indian Residential Schools and progress Reconciliation in Canada. The TRC released a final report on the research conducted and released its findings and Calls to Action on December 15, 2015.
SOS Children’s Villages BC is mandated to support vulnerable children and to ensure that each child is in a loving and safe environment. In order to acknowledge and respect the Calls to Action the TRC has indicated to the public, SOS BC will be undergoing its first policy change on how to better support the Calls to Action recognized in the document. SOS BC will be specifically addressing and acknowledging the Legacy Calls to Action 1-5. Being a 3rd party to governing bodies who are the legal authorities of the children who are supported by SOS BC, we hope to seek change through advocacy.
Actions 1-5 call for governing bodies to look at the social welfare system and to make improvements to better support the needs of Indigenous children in care by reducing the number of children in care. This includes:
- Creating adequate resources to enable communities and child welfare organizations to keep families together where it is safe to do so and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments, regardless of where they reside
- Ensuring social workers and others who support the well being of a child are properly educated on the impact and history of Residential Schools
- Ensuring workers are adequately trained about the potential for Indigenous communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing
- Requesting that all child welfare decision makers consider the impact of Residential School experience on children and their caregivers
Call to Action 3 indicates the call to have Jordan’s Principal fully implemented in order for all children to have access to all services available. Cultural appropriation is addressed in Call to Action 5 in which the TRC states that governing bodies develop culturally appropriate parenting programs for Indigenous Families.
Under the title Education, SOS BC aims to also transition its policies by implementing and supporting actions 10 and 12 which include:
- Improving education attainment levels and success rates
- Developing culturally appropriate curriculum
- Enabling parents to fully participate in the education of their children
Development of culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Indigenous families is described in action 12.
In Language and Culture, SOS BC hopes to address the need for Indigenous languages as a fundamental and values element of Canadian culture and society, and the urgency to preserve them – as well as the revitalization and strengthening of Indigenous languages and cultures – is best managed by Indigenous people and communities (Action 14).
Lastly, SOS BC also hopes to fully engage in Action 43 which recognizes that governing bodies need to fully embrace and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework of Reconciliation.
It is important to note that although SOS BC is not recognized as a governing body or governing authority on the welfare of children, SOS BC works directly with children who are in care or are vulnerable. Over half the children in care in BC identify as Indigenous and we currently host a village site where the majority of children identify as Indigenous. For these reasons, SOS BC is taking its first steps to reconcile as well as progress in taking the TRC actions and implementing the change necessary in the areas we are able to engage.
- Indigenous peoples are the original inhabitants and stewards of the lands now known as Canada.
- SOS Children’s Village BC’s offices and village site are located on the unceded traditional territory of the Katzie, Kwantlen, and Semiahmoo Nations.
- Indigenous peoples have distinct cultures and identities, and unique relationships with their lands, waters, and resources.
- Indigenous peoples have constitutionally protected rights, including Indigenous rights, Aboriginal title, and Treaty rights.
- The Crown and non-Aboriginal peoples have subjected Indigenous peoples to dispossessions, colonization, marginalization and discrimination.
- As a result of the legacy of colonial laws, policies, and the Residential School system, and as a result of continuing injustices, Indigenous peoples continue to experience disadvantage in areas of housing, health, education, employment, and access to justice, and continue to face discrimination, prejudice, stigma, and racism.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to self determination and to recognition and protection of distinct cultures and identities, as provided under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to be consulted about and participate in decision making concerning decisions that affect their rights and interest.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to be involved in the decision making process in regard to Indigenous children in care to ensure the culturally appropriate support children are entitled to and deserve.
- Indigenous peoples are under-represented in the social welfare profession. Social welfare agencies and support organizations are obligated to improve Indigenous representation and implement measures to support Indigenous students, social workers, youth workers, and educators in their studies and practices.
In 2020, our programming shifted to meet the novel needs of the community and our workers – who were turned into front line staff in what felt like one night. Our staff became heavily involved with training and practices to be inclusive of our Indigenous communities at a time of crisis for many families and youth aging out of care. When COVID-19 ended up at the doorstep of newly independent youth in the community and families who were at risk of being vulnerable, we pushed our front line to meet them and make sure they had security surrounding housing, food, and medication.
One of the biggest pieces that we were able to provide to our families was an adapted community school to serve children at the Village who were required to enroll in distance education. In the matter of a weekend, our BC Certified teacher went hard to work on ensuring our children did not lose track of their education. From Monday to Friday, Carmen welcomed students in a social distanced classroom where she focused on their direct needs. This created a safety net, minimizing the children’s risk of exposure to COVID-19 and the areas where they are most vulnerable in our community.
What was enlightening about the situation, was the lack of support from governing bodies to ensure these children had the support they needed. The experience gave us a reality check. Regardless of the pandemic, the Indigenous children at our Village were not having their needs met in school. We realized that they needed support more than ever now that distance education was required.
In the five years that Carmen has been with us – and in the 8 years I have personally directed education and programming for the Village – it has been challenging to see how much Indigenous children need to be advocated for, in order to get their needs met. It leaves us asking questions surrounding Indigenous education in our districts. We need to do better to ensure one of the demographics with the lowest graduation rates can overcome this sad state of affairs. SOS Children’s Village BC wants to be part of this change, and we need our community to recognize the injustice in this alone. We hope to lead the change and advocate for the needs of Indigenous children and their education, and the one-on-one support they all need to see themselves through to Grade 12 – while being inclusive to all children in care who also struggle to reach graduation.
Although we were unable to focus our priorities on the cultural work for our community and continuing our reconciliation due to the pandemic, we did want to draw attention to the area of education and recognize that it has been part of the Calls to Action. As we continue to serve these communities we are left to manage these needs on a case-by-case basis, when there should be a more general call to attention and more being done for these children.
Reconciliation in 2020 took form in advocacy, meetings, calls, and conferences held to meet the needs of children at the Village and ensure their education was protected. We continue to work front line and work with community partners to meet this need, but it still deserves greater attention.
In 2021, we continue our distance education support for kids Village side, continue our training surrounding mental health and working with Indigenous communities, and continue bringing culture to the Village through art and outdoor land-based learning. Our programs also provide support to our caregivers to help with their own personal healing and well being as they continue to manage families from home. Our communities have been heavily involved with child protection, with safety for young Indigenous women, and with bringing recreational opportunities for kids to get out of the house, off screens, and engaging with their peers.
– Kistie Singh, Executive Director
RECONCILIATION 3 YEAR PROJECT
YEAR ONE (2018): Information gathering, education, and training, establishment of the Reconciliation Action Plan Committee – piloting direct programs and support services, establishment of Feather programming, building of Reconciliation Action Plan for organization, focus on art
YEAR TWO (2019): Approved action plan by Board of Directors, focus on language, developing relationships with First Nations, Longhouse Project, UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
YEAR THREE (2020): Focused on ongoing Reconciliation as an organization, continuous improvement and support/services to meet the needs of children in care, sustainability
MAJOR GUIDING LITERATURE: TRC Calls to Action, Indigenous Principles of Learning
- Board of Directors of SOS Children’s Village BC approved project, moved into program implementation.
- Established local First Nations: Katzie, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo Nations, working towards building relationships.
- Funding has two streams (majority going to direct support/services, with remainder focused on staff education and training).
- Direct service program development: Feather – bridging cultural outdoor education to support Indigenous children in care (Run by certified BC teacher, developed in partnership with Fireside Adventures).
- Major components to Feather: 21 day camp in various locations over the Lower Mainland, Sea to Sky, Vancouver Island.
- Minor components: Sprouted Chef – learning about nutrition, gardening, utilizing what is in harvest. Farm to table lunch for caregivers at the Village prepped and cooked by kids.
- Field trips to local camps and recreation opportunities throughout the year including winter sports (snowshoeing, tubing, ice skating) and year round sports, swimming, biking, paddling.
- Another Direct Service: 6 week intensive arts program led by local Indigenous artist Jay Havens. Connecting the kids through art and utilizing cultural methods and approaches.
- Smoke cleansing/clearing, gathering and preparing food, sharing food, food security support.
- Learning to make drums from large hide, understanding the practice and use of this approach to drum making.
- Elders were also involved to help bring consistency and substance to the program.
- Reconciliation Action Plan Committee established – over 10 meetings held within the year, completed major project of aligning Calls to Action to SOS BC action plan, waiting to be approved by the Board.
- Six workshops organized and attended by SOS BC staff, the Village, and Board of Directors led by local First Nations elders including:
- An orientation and introduction of the situation of children in care in BC.
- A orientation of cleansing led by local elder Tom Oleman.
- Building Bridges workshop – understanding Residential Schools and their impact on Indigenous peoples.
- SOS BC staff attended online UBC EDX Course: ‘Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education’.
- Important information gathered: Updated Indigenous map of Canada is now up at the Village with pinned location to all the First Nations our children are connected and associated with.
- Staff and Village visit to old Residential School St Mary’s in Mission led by elder Sunny from the Sto:lo tourism office.
- First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) conference attended by SOS BC staff.
- A number of funds were also utilized to support children and families attending their First Nations’ gatherings. 5 families were able to attend these events, with SOS BC covering transportation and accommodation costs.
- Looking into why the situation of foster care has a high number of children who identify as Indigenous.
- Learning about Canada’s history and why children were removed from parental care leading up into the late 1960s and into 1996 – the closure of the last Residential School.
- Visiting an old Residential School in Mission to understand the environment and lived experiences of some of the survivors and victims who never left these grounds.
- Building closer relationships with the Delegated Agencies involved in the decisions that support the children we care for in our Village.
- Reaching out to the Katzie, Kwantlen, and Semiahmoo local First Nations to build a relationship.
- Supporting the Youth Advocacy Group at SOS BC who led the drop off and the conversation with local First Nation Elders, inviting these individuals to SOS BC’s first gathering for Elders on Village grounds
- Leading the charge through education and connection to local First Nations through 2 years of summer camp, providing children and youth with opportunities to connect to the land 21 days at a time. Our biggest expedition supported youth on a 2 week trip to the Yukon and exploring the Yukon River.
- Funding programs that connected children to Indigenous teachers, tracing their roots and their bands on up-to-date maps provided by the Government of Canada.
- Supporting 12 sessions on local Indigenous languages for the children and youth at the Village with a trip out to the Royal BC Museum’s Our Living Language.
- Continuing to solidify partnerships with local Indigenous partners and allies including VACFSS, Hummingbirds Rising Consulting, Fireside Adventures, and Seabird First Nation.
- Working towards Indigenous representation on all levels of our organization, including our board of directors and staff.
- Lastly, our relationship with Seabird Nation continues to be ongoing as we manage the sensitive nature of COVID, with the ultimate goal of having our first Village in partnership with Seabird First Nation.
YEAR THREE UPDATE – SHIFTING OUR WORK INTO ACTION
At a unique time in our organization’s journey, we reach an interesting bend in the road. With COVID-19 present, and our province taking strong actions to flatten the curve, Indigenous priorities have received more attention and continue to be at the forefront of the ongoing cultural narrative in our country. But this isn’t enough.
With recent events also garnering local attention on the matters of Black and Indigenous lives, we are learning that Canada has past practices that still echo in our systems today. The impact of our history has and continues to impact the children who identify with these communities – individuals who are simply trying to thrive in a climate that keeps these individuals oppressed.
SOS BC has continued to work in building our understanding of Canada’s history and how this impacts the very children, youth, and families we work with who identify as Indigenous. COVID has given us a window of opportunity to reflect during this time on what to redefine in our work on Reconciliation and SOS BC’s three year commitment. We believe that COVID and recent news has brought to light the following concerns and issues as SOS BC works closely with Indigenous communities:
- COVID has deeply impacted the most vulnerable populations in our nation which include those who are living at home but who are not safe at home, those communities who are already at risk, and youth who are trying to sustain independence when they’ve only recently been introduced to it. We work directly with these communities.
- Racism continues to exist in our communities. The existence of racism is in our systems, exists in our understanding of Canadian history, in our relationships with Indigenous peoples, and is directly impacting Indigenous communities’ ability to sustain health and wellness.
- Reconciliation is a means in which to build an understanding of the experience of those who have survived Residential Schools and events of our history. A shift is needed to move away from simply discovering these experiences, and into action surrounding what we can do now as non-Indigenous people, as supports, and allies to stopping these injustices.
SOS BC made a strong commitment in 2018 to spend the following three years invested in learning, educating, and directly supporting Indigenous communities within our Village and surrounding areas. SOS BC felt it was necessary to explore the realities of Indigenous communities – realities that continue to be a strong narrative in the work we do everyday. We have built strong relationships with Elders in the community, our delegated agency offices, and local First Nations bands.
Our strongest focus continues to be the foster care system in British Columbia in which SOS BC does much of our work. We work closely with foster families in supporting caregivers and providing support and services for children in their care. We live day to day with our families who live on site at our Village, and we work to make sure the children continue to be at the centre of our work.
The last three years have provided some strong examples of our own learning in our journey to better understanding. 2020 gives us an opportunity to refocus our efforts, to reflect and adjust the course as needed, and to continue to support the communities we work with. Because of this, SOS BC will be pivoting its direction towards decolonization and decolonization awareness. This is a means in which our efforts move from learning to action, and what we hope will contribute to long term change.
OUR POSITION ON THE REMAINS OF 215 INDIGENOUS KIDS DISCOVERED IN UNMARKED GRAVES