A new pilot program aims to reduce the over-representation of aboriginal children in B.C. government care and the number of cases that go to family court.
Justice Minister Suzanne Anton and Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux announced the aboriginal family court program Tuesday morning at the Spirit of the Children Society in New Westminster – where the program will be based.
Band elders will be included in proceedings, along with their lawyer, society staff, friends and family to create a personal healing plan with treatment options and cultural ceremonies to support the family and child’s progress.
Elders will work alongside the judge on matters such as finding extended family to help take care of the children if the parents cannot, instead of the children being placed into government care.
“The time to reclaim our children is here and now,” said Chief Clifford White of Gitxaala Nation and Elder of the New Westminster First Nations Criminal Court. “This is an aboriginal solution based on aboriginal values, principles and practices.”
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With provincial funding of $90,000, the first year will provide lawyers to 15 aboriginal families, to be determined through social workers and the Spirit of the Children society.
“The measurement [of success] will be… are the families getting better outcomes?” Cadieux said. “We believe we’re going to have success.”
According to a government news release, aboriginal children are 12 times more likely to be in government care than non-aboriginal children.