Gitxsan Nation leaders gathered in northeastern B.C. to block social workers from apprehending a 6-year-old girl and “end the tragic legacy of our children being stolen.” The young girl is now in joint protective custody within her community, according to Git’luuhl’um’hetxwit.
“We have drawn the line to ensure that all our children have access to family, culture, language and their traditional territories,” the Git’luuhl’um’hetxwit media release says. “She is learning our language, playing with cousins, and hearing the stories of her ancestors. Never again will Canada steal our future generations.”
Shawn Larabee, a spokeman for the Ministry of Children and Family Development told VICE World News in a statement that working towards Indigenous-led jurisdiction over child welfare is a “relatively new process” and is outlined by the federal government. The B.C. ministry “has exchanged initial correspondence” with the Gitanmaax Band, and is now collaborating with Indigenous Services Canada, Larabee said.
Kolin Sutherland-Wilson is Gitxsan and a member of the Git’luuhl’um’hetxwit wilp attended a rally in support of the girl. “We’re here as a very gentle reminder that we have a whole community watching the actions during these precedent-setting events. Gitxsan people have jurisdiction over Gitxsan children, just like all Indigenous people should have jurisdiction over Indigenous children.” Sutherland-Wilson said.
Canada’s foster care and previous residential school system removed thousands of children from their families and heritage. “I have many aunties and uncles and grandparents who should be here right now, but many were taken away and never returned. The intention right now is to ultimately let Canada know that enough is enough.” Sutherland-Wilson said.
Government and churches forcibly assimilating Indigenous peoples and nations is genocide and should be taken serious by any law enforcement in existence today. The foster care system has never shown success nor have any of the previous colonizing experiments. Instead children in foster care are more likely to be abused and sexually assaulted than anywhere else on Earth, including their “less than perfect” family.
“A lot of people—Canadians—really grapple with this concept of genocide, but genocide is simply put as the erasure of a distinct people, the erasure of a social identity. If our kids are taken away, removed, they don’t understand who they are, where they come from, who they belong to, and who their ancestors are, and we’ll cease to exist as a people.” Sutherland-Wilson said.
A child that is taken from their family, friends, and everything and everyone they know is more likely to run away, and that makes them more susceptible to human traffickers and cults. If governments truly intend to protect children they are going to have to strengthen family units rather than destroy them.
Vice reports that according to the Git’luuhl’um’hetxwit media release, the wilp has kept resource extractive industries such as forestry out of their territories for children like the 6-year-old girl. In the summer, Cowessess First Nation became the first Indigenous community in Canada to officially take control of its child welfare system about a month after it confirmed 751 unmarked graves at a former residential school.
Just recently in a related article, The Lakota Peoples Law Project says that the American Association of Adoption Attorneys filed six federal lawsuits in six different states and that Judge O’Conner struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act declaring that “it is an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Act and stated that it racially discriminated against white people because they gave preference to Indian people or Indian children”.