William Yoachim, Kw’umut Lelum exective director, left, Michael Wyse, Snuneymuxw chief and Paul Wyse Seward, Snuneymuxw band councillor, present a blanket to Katrine Conroy, minister of Children and Family Development, during the grand opening of Kw’umut Lelum’s grand opening of its new Prideaux Street offices on Jan. 16. (CHRIS BUSH/News Bulletin)

First Nations take over off-reserve family services in mid-Island region

Kw’umut Lelum hosts grand opening of new Nanaimo office

A new centre supporting aboriginal families living in urban areas is now serving nine mid-Island First Nations.

Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services hosted a grand opening for its new offices at 233 Prideaux St. in Nanaimo on Wednesday with a ceremony that included speeches, prayers and song.

The organization has served member nation families living on reserve, but in November they extended services to families living in Nanaimo. The building is home to a team of social, family support workers as well as child and youth care workers and administration staff.

The goal is to support First Nation families with coordinated, culturally-informed child safety and support services for aboriginal families and communities that are guided by Coast Salish values, which include engaging the whole community to support families and keep children out of foster care and with their families and culture.

Transferring responsibility and care for urban First Nations families to Kw’umut Lelum, a Delegated Aboriginal Agency, is seen as a step forward in the reconciliation process.

“One of the things the government has made a commitment to is reconciliation and a lot of the times we get told by a lot of the different First Nations leadership is it’s time to quit talking about reconciliation and actually engage in reconcili-action,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development.

This year the Nanaimo hub will handle up to 60 files transferred from MCFD.

“The ministry’s saying, ‘Go. We really support you and you should be watching over your own’ and that’s why it’s significant to us … it’s a great fit and it’s a fit that’s needed for our children, youth and families,” said Bill Yoachim, Kw’umut Lelum executive director.

Member nations the Nanaimo hub serves include First Nations from Mill Bay to Qualicum — Halalt, Lyackson, Lake Cowichan, Malahat, Penelakut, Qualicum, Snaw-Naw-As, Snuneymuxw and Stz’uminus — but children and families supported by Kw’umut Lelum in Nanaimo come from areas beyond the central and south Island including the Lower Mainland and Fraser valley said Snuneymuxw Chief Michael Wyse.

“Our children are our future. Some of the people that lived away from our communities, lived off-reserve in urban areas, run into trouble too, so we want to make sure that they’re looked after in a right way, that the culture and way of life is shared with them in a good way,” Wyse said. “I’m really happy that this is being brought forward and being available for our communities. We’re really happy about that.”



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