British Columbia hopes to reduce the over-representation of indigenous children in government care with a new aboriginal family court pilot program.
The Aboriginal Family Healing Court Conference pilot program will be based in New Westminster and limited to hearing family case conferences after an initial court hearing has already been held.
The program will include band elders in proceedings, supports families to create a healing plan with treatment options, and cultural ceremonies to mark the progress.
Chief Clifford White of the Gitxaala Nation on B.C.’s northern coast says the initiative is an aboriginal-led solution and the hope is that communities can adapt the model to use in child-welfare cases.
“The time to reclaim our children is here and now,” White said in a news release.
Children’s Minister Stephanie Cadieux said the project complements several recommendations made by Grand Chief Ed John in his special report issued last November on how the system is failing aboriginal children and families.
The percentage of indigenous kids in B.C.’s care has increased over the past decade, from 50 per cent in 2006 to 61 per cent last year, and Premier Christy Clark’s government has faced fierce criticism on the issue.
B.C. has several First Nations courts, which handle sentencing in criminal cases in four communities across the province, and the concept of an aboriginal family court has been in development since 2012.