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Cowichan Tribes Justice

“From small beginnings to transformative change”

Find out more about A2JBC-supported Initiatives

Over 50% of all children in care are Indigenous, although Indigenous children make up only 6% or more of the child population in British Columbia. Historically, the intrusion of child welfare authorities into Indigenous communities and families has been paternalistic and colonial in nature – at best insensitive and sometimes brutal to Indigenous people. 

Together with the Aboriginal Justice Council of BC, A2JBC is supporting a project led by the Cowichan Tribes and the Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem Child and Family Services, a delegated agency that provides services and programs to Cowichan families under the Child Family and Coummunity Services Act. The project has received a $50,000 grant from the Law Foundation of BC.

The project has two phases, and phase one has two parts that will be worked on simultaneously.

Phase 1

(a) Cowichan Family Law Procedure Report

Drawing on community resources such as traditional teachings, written stories, interviews from Elders, community members and leaders, the project will seek to answer the question: what procedures should be followed, in family law processes, in order to maintain the Cowichan Tribes snu’wuyulh – legal traditions. From this research, a report will be created that outlines the Cowichan legal principles that should guide family law processes.

(b) Community Building among Stakeholders

To prepare for Phase II implementation,  a workshop will be hosted by the Cowichan Tribes for all participating stakeholders on Indigenous Legal Traditions, using the services of the University of Victoria’s Indigenous Legal Research Unit. Also, the project will explore with the participating stakeholders underlying different perspectives that could be obstacles to success in the implementation phase.

Phase 2

The Cowichan Tribes will work with stakeholders in the child protection justice system (Provincial Court judiciary, lawyers, duty counsel, Native court workers, social workers, families) to operationalize the Cowichan legal principles into the existing child protection court processes in ways that enhance the well-being of Indigenous children, families and communities.

The expectation is that much will be learned by the project about how the legal traditions of other First Nations can be integrated into the existing child protection justice system. The project will demonstrate how Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups can work in partnership to improve the justice system for the benefit of Indigenous children, families and communities. It will be an exemplar of the A2JBC approach, in particular, by being user-centred.