Yukon First Nations children and youth living in out-of-home care will each have a mandatory cultural plan in place in the coming months.
The announcement about the Cultural Connections Project, which includes the provision for the cultural plans among other initiatives, was made Feb. 17 at a joint press conference of the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN), the Yukon government and Indigenous Services Canada.
The initiative will see the federal government contribute $12.6 million over the next five years to the efforts.
As officials explained, the project will see supports provided to connect all children in out-of-home care with their own cultures and communities, including the mandatory cultural plan that will be developed collaboratively with Yukon First Nations or CYFN.
Of the 84 children and youth in the territory in out-of-home care, approximately 90 per cent are Indigenous.
“All children deserve to be emotionally, physically and spiritually safe,” Tracy-Anne McPhee, the territory’s minister of health and social services, said. “They must be valued, loved and respected in their culture. This project reflects our commitment to reconciliation and the importance of culture and community for children involved in the child welfare system. It is also an example of true partnership and collaboration between Yukon First Nations, Canada and the Yukon.”
As it was outlined in a video produced by CYFN, many First Nations already have cultural support workers who connect members with programs and activities.
“CYFN is pleased to see this project come to fruition for the benefit of Yukon First Nations children,” CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston said. “This project is the result of collaboration across governments and Yukon First Nations and demonstrates a commitment to ensuring that Yukon First Nations children in care are able to maintain a connection to their culture and communities.”
A plan for each individual
Shadelle Chambers, executive director at CYFN, said each plan will be tailored to the individual’s circumstances. Age, community and other details will be factored into each plan, with a review of an individual’s plan to be done twice each year.
Chambers noted the initiative will ensure each child has access to group programs that may range from drum-making to on-the-land activities to language programs, time with elders and more.
The project, officials said, aligns with key priorities outlined in the Yukon’s Trilateral Table on the Wellbeing of Yukon First Nations Children and Families. In particular the importance of reunification and maintaining connections between children and families was highlighted along with recommendations made by Yukon First Nations during the recent review of the Yukon’s Child and Family Services Act.
It also supports the direction from the federal act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families in the Yukon by enhancing Yukon First Nations’ involvement in child and family services and supporting children to remain connected to their communities, languages and cultures, it was noted.
It’s anticipated work on individual cultural plans will begin in April and be completed over a few months.
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