Local Métis agency hoping to 'contribute to healing' through care of children

By Chad Klassen
November 21, 2017 - 5:26pm

KAMLOOPS — Across the province, there are tens of thousands of children in ministry care. Among those kids, there are 4,300 Indigenous children in care. 581 of those kids are Métis.

However, Métis children in this region are now being fully cared for by a local Métis agency, Lii Michif Otipemisiwak. The province handed over responsibility of Métis children in the Thompson region as part of reconciliation. 

"A lot of our people don't have that connection to their cultural identity or to their sense of being Métis," says executive director of Lii Michif Otipemisiwak Family and Community Services Colleen Lucier. "So part of our healing process is reminding our families of their history, of their ancestors and of their story."

It's something, Lucier says, not all Métis children are getting under ministry care. While Metis family and community services have been serving local Métis children and families, they now have more authority over how they'll be cared for. 

"These children will know who they are and when they become parents, it'll automatically come as part of the family needs and the community needs. It's going to take off with a new generation that's got what they never had before."

Quinn Courtoreille found out two weeks ago that he's Métis — only because elders recognized his last name. 

"It's better because in my own community back up north in Alberta, I didn't have that many supports, and as soon as I found out I was Métis it seems like my whole network opened up more," he said. 

Courtoreille was homeless for a time when he came to Kamloops, and even though he's not under 19, he is still being helped by Lii Michif Otipemisiwak family and community services.

"They're helping me with learning about the people in my past, my ancestors. They're teaching me how to bead. They have options for fiddle playing and jigging. These are things I never really thought I could do."

It's all part of the centre's goal of asimilating kids into the culture. Métis people, Lucier says, were part of the 'Sixties Scoop' when thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their homes and put in residential schools. 

It's trauma that remains in their culture today, and the hope is this new delegation, which comes with $2.1 million in funding from the province, will help heal families and teach children about where they came from. 

"We're still dealing with a difficult line of work. We want our children to be safe. But what we want to keep at the forefront of everything that we do is we're not here to perpetuate trauma in the families," notes Lucier. "We need to restore hope, we need to be compassionate, and we need to contribute to healing." 

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