How a dinner table meeting morphed into better lives for Island Indigenous women

The cultural portion of the event included a bear dance. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River MirrorThe cultural portion of the event included a bear dance. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror
The Tsonukwa dance portrays a supernatural being who steals children who wander too far into the woods, but Tsonukwa also represents wealth and knowledge. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River MirrorThe Tsonukwa dance portrays a supernatural being who steals children who wander too far into the woods, but Tsonukwa also represents wealth and knowledge. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror
A number of dances were performed as part of the cultural portion of the anniversary celebraton. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River MirrorA number of dances were performed as part of the cultural portion of the anniversary celebraton. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror
Laichwiltach Family Life Society founder Pauline McCrimmon speaks about the history of the society. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River MirrorLaichwiltach Family Life Society founder Pauline McCrimmon speaks about the history of the society. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror
Shawn Decaire hugs Cory Cliffe, who created the paddle for Decaire. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River MirrorShawn Decaire hugs Cory Cliffe, who created the paddle for Decaire. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror
Shawn Decaire, who has worked with LFLS for 12 years, receives a paddle celebrating 20 years of sobriety. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River MirrorShawn Decaire, who has worked with LFLS for 12 years, receives a paddle celebrating 20 years of sobriety. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror
The 12 foot paddle honours Decaire’s work in the community. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River MirrorThe 12 foot paddle honours Decaire’s work in the community. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

Thirty years ago four women gathered around Pauline McCrimmon’s kitchen table to find a way to end the cycle of violence within local Indigenous communities, families and society.

That idea has morphed and grown into the Laichwiltach Family Life Society (LFLS), a non-profit that provides supportive counselling to families and individuals of Indigenous ancestry in Campbell River. There are now 16 programs, which are run from an Indigenous perspective, LFLS employs 24 people and has touched hundreds of lives over the years.

“I can’t believe it’s been 30 years,” said executive director Audrey Wilson.

Wilson has been with the society since the beginning, she was one of those women at McCrimmon’s kitchen table. McCrimmon was the society’s first executive. She took the organization from an idea at a kitchen table to a full on organization with government funding. In the late 1990s, the Executive Directorship was handed over to Wilson, who has been at the helm ever since.

During the celebration, the four founding members Lorna Quatell, Wilson, McCrimmon and Barbara Mitchell were honoured with gifts. Elder Sophie Hansen, who is now retiring after having worked with the LFLS language program over the years, was also honoured for her contributions. The group also took the time to honour Kwesa Place coordinator Shawn Decaire with a very large hand-carved paddle for achieving 20 years of sobriety as of Oct. 31.

Though it has now branched out to help in many different areas of people’s lives, LFLS started as a support group for women in abusive relationships. Over the years, the society has used traditional and cultural beliefs to provide support to families who were taking steps to improve their lives.

After some cultural dances and songs, Wedlidi Speck, who MCd the event, recalled the origins of the organization, noting how many men were in the crowd.

“You see the amount of men that are here today, I want to thank you for coming out,” he said. I want to thank you for listening to the voices of our women and hearing the journey that they’ve taken and how difficult that journey has been.

“We all are witnesses to violence, it affects every one of us,” he said. “When it affects you it affects all of us… when we see the hurt, it hurts everyone. We feel it. But when we see the healing going on it affects us too.”

Wilson said that without the community, getting to this point would have been nearly impossible, and that she looks forward to the next chapter in LFLS’ history.

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marc.kitteringham@campbellrivermirror.com

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