BURNABY - About 60 Aboriginal child welfare staff and community members braved the cold and wind on Saturday, April 22 to demand more funding for Aboriginal child and family services. Reporters from both CBC and APTN filmed the colourful event.
Workers and community members of all ages marched along Croydon Drive and stopped outside Minister Stephanie Cadieux’s campaign office to demand improved funding at the Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society (known by its Sto:lo name, Xyolhemeylh). Specifically, marchers called for smaller caseloads, and more prevention services and cultural programming for children and families.
Participants included B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) President Stephanie Smith, workers from Xyolhemeylh, the agency's bargaining committee, Aboriginal community members, and concerned residents.
“Sadly, every Aboriginal child welfare agency in the province faces these issues,” said Smith. “Our members at Xyolhemeylh want the best for children in care in B.C. These dedicated workers want improved working conditions to help them better advocate for children and families."
Dena Silver, who spoke on behalf of the workers at Xyolhemeylh, pointed out the scope of their work. "Our work impacts not only us and our work environment, but our families and everyone in Sto:lo territory," she said. "We are here today because we’ve had enough reports. We’ve had enough talk. We are here today because now is the time for action. The provincial government must fund Aboriginal child welfare at Xyolhmeylh and at all delegated Aboriginal agencies in BC properly, for the sake of our children and families."
The rally began and ended with a powerful Aboriginal drumming circle by Sto:lo drummers.
Workers at Xyolhemeylh joined the BCGEU last summer due to large caseloads and lack of funding. Current contract proposals include reducing caseloads and providing the resources necessary for culturally appropriate services.
The Representative for Children and Youth’s latest report cites an average of 30 cases per social worker at one time, 50% more than is recommended by the Aboriginal Operational and Practice Standards and Indicators (AOPSI).
For more information or an interview call Bronwen Barnett at 604-473-5424
For high resolution photos of the rally, click here
For the Representatives for Children and Youth's latest report, click here