New life is being breathed into an ancestral role held traditionally in First Nations culture by the community’s matriarchs.
Grand Chief Doug Kelly said through the Coast Salish matriarchs they are now ready to reclaim control of child welfare services from the federal government.
It is hoped the move will dramatically reduce the number of Indigenous children and youth in care.
Bill C-92, the historic legislation described as “an Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, youth, and families,” was tabled Thursday into Canadian law.
Grand Chief Kelly said it was exciting work on the part of the Chiefs’ Council, which began last year after the Sto:lo Tribal Council secured funding, hired a “Matriarchs’ Governance Coordinator, and continued with the recent vote in the House of Commons approving the new law.
“My heart is full of gratitude for the dedication and commitment of the Hon. Jane Philpott and the Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould,” Kelly commented Friday. He said he deeply appreciated “their leadership, advocacy and support” of Bill C-92.
“As promised, this historic legislation unlocks the door for Coast Salish Matriarchs to reclaim their jurisdiction for children and families,” the Grand Chief Kelly said. “Our Ancestors are celebrating with our Matriarchs with song and dance.”
The legislation is an attempt to breathe new life into the ancestral role of the matriarch under Stó:lo law. In the Stó:lo world view, the concept of ‘matriarch’ refers to the eldest woman or the woman recognized by family as their matriarch, who carries the thread of family history and culture, as well as ceremonial and naming rights of her family.
Although Grand Chief Kelly still had a few questions, and he’ll be seeking clarification for some aspects of it, but he fully supported the thrust of the bill.
“As an elected leader, as a traditional man, I support our Matriarchs reclaiming their jurisdiction for our children and families. The time is now to create a better world for our children and grandchildren. I am going to work with like-minded leaders to get this work done!”
That means working closely with Ministry of Children and Families Development and the delegated agencies.