A New Zealand cabinet minister made a stop in Nanaimo this week on a fact-finding mission about child services.
Tracey Martin, New Zealand MP and Minister of Children, and her contingent stopped by Snuneymuxw First Nation territory Wednesday to learn about child services offered through Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services, which services nine area First Nations, and if they can be applied to prevent Maori children in her country from coming into care. She and her government seek to “devolve responsibility from government to Maori with regard to child protection and child care.”
“It was because they had some of these services [that] were more advanced than others,” said Martin about why she came to Snuneymuxw territory. “Canada, generally because there’s been a legislative change that is a little bit similar to a legislative change of ours, meant that there was more empowerment of First Nations and starting to build their capacity.”
Bill Yoachim, Kw’umut Lelum executive director, said the Canadian government reached out to Snuneymuxw a few weeks ago, asking if they could host Martin and her contingent and there are lessons that can be learned from both sides.
“Systems are failing [children] whether they come from our systems or their systems. We’re starting a program called Step Up preparing kids when they age out of care and preparing them for their life-long journey … it’s proven statistically that both systems are failing and [Martin] has taken initiative down there, and her government, to push a program called Transition and what a great idea,” said Yoachim. “The feds are interested in that here, we’re doing a pilot on that called Step Up and we look forward to seeing where that goes.”
While both Canada and New Zealand are charting reconciliation paths, Martin said her country is “almost at the end of its treaty settlements.”
“Which means that the majority … have said, yes, we will reconcile for the losses of land, through the provision of this from the state or that from the state, a certain amount of finances and a certain amount of land,” said Martin. “I think the Maori economy is worth $11 billion now and it’s growing, so it’s giving Maori back the capacity to make their own decisions and stand on their own feet.
“From my perspective around child protection, that means that they are more than capable of looking up and looking after and making decisions for their own children, so this is the moment in our history’s time to now begin this process of devolving from the state.”