Esk̓etemc Stsmémelt ell K̓wesélkten Program

Doreen M. Johnson, Stsmémelt Planner
Located in the Esk̓etemc Lands & Resources Office
Phone: 250-302-3677
or 250-440-5611, ext. 212

About Us
Esk̓etemc Council wants to replace BC's Child Welfare Act and make one especially for Esk̓etemc. We will work together with Secwepemc Nation to have our rights and authority for child welfare services recognized.

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Secwepemc law of Stsmémelt ell K̓wesélkten

What is the Secwepemc Law?
  • Responsibility to look after our children.
  • Obligation to teach our children necessary life skills in a way that includes: spiritual, mental, physical and emotional.
  • Our children have the right to belong in our community.
  • Our children have the right to know and practice their language, culture and ceremonies.
  • Our children have the right to feel safe in our communities.

The Stsmémelt Planner needs to know:
  • How emergency issues for children will be dealt with.
  • Where is the funding going to come from?
  • Who is going to sit on the Family/Community Circles to deal with child welfare problems?
  • Who are our Care Providers going to be?
  • Who has the education to carry out this work?

In Canada, only 7.7% of children are Indigenous yet they make up over half of those in foster care. There are more Indigenous children in Canada's child-welfare system today than there were at the height of residential schools.

The passing of federal legislation Bill C-92 recognizes our inherent right to assert jurisdiction over a nation-based, family-focused, and community driven approach to child and family services.

The work of Stsmémelt began in 2009, when the 17 Chiefs of the Secwepemc Nation committed to a community-driven, nation-based approach to achieve full jurisdiction over Secwepemc children and families in the traditional territory. In order to actualize this, these goals need to be supported by Secwepemc laws and principles about children and families, as well as lessons learned from the elders, the language and past legislation and policy.

Leadership within the Secwepemc Nation have shared a vision for many years as it relates to self-determination and child welfare. The vision is to implement a family focused, community driven, nation-based approach to child and family services.

Stsmémelt (Children) is a movement that is based on:

  • Secwepemc traditional governance
  • Legal traditional values
  • Secwepemc stories
  • Secwepemctsin
  • Healing and family preservation

A decolonized and culturally aware model will be revitalized and will account for intergenerational impacts and trauma inflicted on the Secwepemc peoples and how that may influence parenting struggles. Communities will develop policies and procedures to suit individual community's needs and gain fiscal arrangements that are sustainable, needs-based, and consistent. The end goal is to assert full jurisdiction over child and family services, facilitate healing and provide community support for all Secwepemc children and families.

The purpose of this Strategic Action Plan is to guide the work of the Nation, including the Stsmémelt Technical Working Group from the adoption stage of the Secwepemc Law of Stsmémelt and K̓wesélkten to the implementation stage, including calculating the timeline required to achieve the vision and goals which we believe will help facilitate healing within and throughout the entire Nation.

The planning effort undertaken to create this plan was facilitated by Four Directions Management Services and included participation of the Stsmémelt Technical Working Group, leadership, and key advisors. Feedback and information to develop the plan was gathered over a series of 5 sessions held virtually from January - March 2021, online surveys, and use of background materials.

Our children are the future of our Nation. It's time to bring them home.

Community Advisory Working Group

Eight (8) registered community members will advise in regards to Healing, Capacity Development and Community Engagement.

ESKP Coordination Agreement (The Agreement)

Sets out a Governance process that recognizes the S.35 Aboriginal Rights of the Canadian Constitution:
- Constitution to solidify our Laws and ratified by our Members.
- The Agreements honours and strives to achieve the goal of Substantive Equality for Esk̓etemc Stsmémelt consistent with Jordan's Principle.
- Financial Commitment by Government of Canada, funding will be negotiated.
- The Agreement will apply to Esk̓etemc children wherever they may live.
- Provides for Prevention, Emergency and Special Needs Services.
- Provides for Information Sharing Protocols.
- Provides for funding: to establish infrastructure.

Next Steps after Esk̓etemc Constitution:
- Board of Directors must have specific skills that the community must decide. Includes one group of Kye7es.

Board of Directors hire a Chief Operating Officer (COO):
- That will be an Advisor to a Tribunal who hears appeals from Community Circles. Another group of Kye7es will sit on this Tribunal.

Community Circles/Circles of Care:
- Kye7es who are on on the Board of Directors or Tribunal will sit on this.
- We need to know what happens if there is a conflict of interest.

*This information is negotiable and will be decided by the Esk̓etemc.
Stsmémelt Strategic Plan 2021 - 2024

Healing - We will feel a sense of accomplishment in our efforts to support healing when we have programs and services in community guided by our traditional laws. By having these culturally appropriate services we hope to create safe speaces and focus on healing and prevention versus apprehension when possible.

1. Individual. We want to support parents in a way that meets their needs by having critical support systems in place for them. These systems need to understand the dynamics of what individuals are going through. It is critical that their situations and actions not be stigmatized but instead they are given the opportunity to heal holistically. Safe places must be available for struggling parents, encouraging self-respect, self-esteem, inclusive decision making, strengths-based, and task-centered approaches. A big brother/big sister type of program should also be considered to be able to provide a role model or mentor to kids in need as a source of guidance and support.

2. Family. Families need to be supported in successful reunification so vulnerable children can see there is family out there who cares about them and can support them. This can be approached by creating safe spaces, family circles, and cultural healing opportunities. We also would like to see a sense of community support struggling families with elders and community members providing restorative justice for those in situations that this would be suitable.

3. Community. Each community should have their own strategy to consider how they can create a sense of safety and be able to host positive, healthy community meetings. Strategies should consider the services people would most benefit from and support individuals in having a sense of choice in the services available to them. This would look like community-based healing strategies considering a continuum of services be made available. In addition, it would be helpful to share what is going well amongst the communities to encourage learning from others and sharing the successes.

4. Nation. Opportunities to gather as a Nation, including seasonal gatherings and ceremonies, should be encouraged and supported as they create a sense of pride, belonging, identity and connection. This helps community members know they are part of something bigger, strengthening our Nation, providing reunification, and recognizing our community champions. These gatherings also allow us to share what has been working and our successes, celebrating in these accomplishments together. We also recommend the development of a healing model based on the Circle of Care (7 laws) that focuses on the 4 quadrants of the circle and looks at people in holistic way.

Revitalization of Secwépemc Law – We will feel grounded in our identity and have a sense of pride when our Secwépemc law has been revitalized. We’re on the right path moving in the right direction when we are practicing our traditional protocol and ceremonies. We will have successfully revitalized our law when we are the ones who decide what happens to our children and we have the resources to care for them based on our own ways.

5. Communication of Secwépemc Law. Secwépemc people deserve the opportunity to be familiar with our history and laws and refamiliarize themselves with our stories to have a deeper understanding of how they shape our society’s, and our community’s behaviour and expectations. This understanding needs to extend to other delegated agencies, MCFD and government agencies, and education institutions, so that they can better understand and provide informed support. In addition, we need to increased awareness with our neighbours (e.g., Syilx, St’át’imc, Tsilhqotín) and federal and provincial governments to ensure there is a broad saturation of cultural understanding.

6. Teaching Nation Members our Law. Improved curriculum development is needed, bringing an awareness of these traditions and protocols into the school system and including language class options for both university and high school levels. In our communities, we need to see specific training that supports our Capacity Development goal areas. This will include regular meetings to discuss changes to be made and make sure there is local and political support for what we are trying to accomplish. Mock scenarios will be hosted to pilot and test the implementation of the law to identify gaps and best practices. We must make sure to distinguish between law and policy while never losing sight that we are exercising our inherent rights and revitalizing our laws that were taken from us.

7. Sharing and Promoting Stories. We will create more opportunities for sharing our stories and the teachings behind them, providing context and clarity behind the meaning and importance of story. This work will be tied to curriculum development in multiple approaches. For youth, we will share these stories and ask children to share with us what it means to them. For adults, we will use podcasts, language lessons and updated hiring protocols in different fields to best reach them. We will infuse this information in different ways whenever we can.

8. Storage and Sharing of Laws. We need to re-establish oral transmission, transferring the stories in people’s minds at gatherings so our children can grow up with this information and pass it down to the next generation. For the sharing of law information, this will take place at season gatherings, events, meeting and within families generationally.


Capacity Development – When we have achieved our capacity development goals, people will have a sense of confidence and competence that they are capable of doing what is being asked of them. We will have good supports in place for children and families and there will be culturally grounded training for people in counselling, traditional medicines, and alternatives to the local social work program.

9. Capacity Building for Communities. A budget will be established for capacity building efforts, working within communities, and with the support of the Nation. Coordination of capacity building within the communities will be done by the Nation for efficiency purposes including sharing resources and teachers and bringing people together for teachings where possible to learn together and from one another. We will work with the communities to implement the law with hands on training, sharing information, and communicating in a multimodal way that reaches as many people as possible and draws on the talents of our people. In addition, there should be legal support and representation for all Secwépemc members so they can know their rights and what supports are available to them.

10. Training for Staff and Leadership. Capacity building needs to include instruction on how to implement the law with hands on, on the land training and sharing information by developing communications tools to reach as many people as possible. Legal support and representation advice will be provided for off-reserve members so they know their rights and what supports and procedures are available to them based on our laws. Our communities will need to provide opportunities for training staff and leadership and be prepared to be continually upgrading and growing remain current and build new opportunities.

11. Societal Education and Training. The development of justice programs and home supports will help the Secwépemc movement work together in a wraparound approach, working with the RCMP, delegated agencies, the MCFD and others as appropriate. This collaboration will provide insight into how we work and how our laws work. When looking at services supporting families and clients, they need to be structured holistically and not in silos. Supporting families needs to be backed by a team and ensure that the families have their voices heard in their healing/family journeys.

12. Post-Secondary Institutions. The work we are doing and changes we are implementing should be recognized by the institutions that provide delegation training and child-welfare specialization programs so there is an awareness in the provincial system. We see this happening by starting with social work, social sciences, and law classes with curriculum including information about residential schools, the sixties scoop, and sharing the beauty around our culture and why there will be a different standard set when we are successful. All applicable programs should be touching on these areas to create informed students To implement these changes, partnerships must be built with various school districts in the territory (TRU, U-VIC, UBC, SFU, UNBC and NVIT) to create a supportive and collaborative approach.

Implementation Considerations – When we have successfully implemented our vision for Stsmémelt, we will be operating from a healthy perspective and supporting families in their healing journeys. Organizationally, we will be operating from a productive, collaborative, and supportive governance structure supporting all levels in the Nation.

13. Clarifying the Structure. Stsmémelt will move outside of SNTC and become its own entity either as a corporate legal structure or by asserting our inherent rights to governance. We can look at an evolving structure where we start by having Stsmémelt stand as its own corporate entity and they eventually having it stand independently in our own jurisdiction. By the end of 3 years, Stsmémelt will be its own Nation entity and between now and then, we will be fleshing this out to ensure it is inclusive to all Secépemc.

14. Developing a Transition Plan. We will need to ensure we have the capacity to transition cases from delegated agencies or MCFD to Stsmémelt and produce interjurisdictional coordination agreements with both levels of government. The financial planning for Stsmémelt will need consistency in 10-year agreements with an escalator clause. Our government funding negotiations need to be secured so we can plan for the timing of the transition.

15. Change Champions. We will coordinate facilitation training for people who are wanting to volunteer and stand up for this movement. We will empower people who are supportive of the work and identify them as change champions by helping strengthen their capacity building. There are many change champions in our communities already including those who have won cases such as the grandmothers and grandfathers who look after their grandchildren and fight to keep their families together. It is unfortunate that we have so many families that have been wronged by the colonial system of child welfare. These are the people who we should look to learn from and show us the way to move forward in a good way.

16. Roles and Responsibilities Clarification. It is important to be clear on who is doing what within the Nation and the specific roles and responsibilities that need to come together in a simultaneous and strategic fashion so that we can be successful in our vision. This includes clarifying roles and responsibilities and the Nation, community, and individual levels, as well as roles of our leadership (both elected and hereditary), family heads, and the organization that operate within our territory.


Funding and Administration – Successful funding and administration will be reflected in having adequate, reliable, and sustainable resources at all levels of the system that meets the needs of communities and the Nation including being able to provide the preventative funding needed to help keep families together.

17. Budgets and Funding Sources. We will develop comprehensive budgets to provide supports at the individual, family, community, and Nation levels which may include additional strategic planning to allow for active and non-reactive results. Funding sources will be identified for each community with a dissemination plain in place regarding who will disburse the funding and the creation of a Stsmémelt independent entity to oversee the disbursement and discussions for how the funding will flow to each community. Planning for funding sources and applications must also be put in place including deadlines for each application.

18. Sustainable Long-Term Funding Model. We will advocate for multi-year funding to support 5 – 10 year implementation plan. It is essential that we gather the relevant data to assist in this budget planning process. We will need the cooperation of the provincial and federal governments in data collection and management stages of this work. It is also recommended that information be gathered from those on the front line to ensure it meets the needs of community members.

19. Identifying Work Plans. Engagement with families and Secépemc members is integral to ensure programming and funding is inclusive and is going where it is needed. This includes ensuring Community Coordinators and Band Representatives provide recommendations on where funding is crucially needed in their communities. One of the major costs to consider is planning will be a land-based healing center. To ensure this work is built to our communities’ needs, we must find out what equipment and infrastructure supports they might need. In addition, information will need to be collected from communities to see what the main needs for support are and if there is any overlap between communities. If there are repeated requests for assistance in an area from many communities this can be addressed at a Nation level. Moving forward, we recommend reporting templates that are user friendly to correctly gather this information on a more regular basis.

20. Create Packages for Leadership. Leadership will receive information containing both qualitative and quantitative information to give a full picture of the work completed to date as well as what needs to be done and which items we require their advocacy for. In addition, our Community Coordinators needs to focus on capacity development themselves and recruitment of others from the community with an interest in being involved in this work. Identifying current and future needs will be helpful for planning purposes.

Communication and Engagement – Our communication and engagement efforts will be successful when people have up-to-date, relevant information that is easily accessible and it underlies and connects to everything that we are doing. We will work to provide a safe and secure community network and utilize traditional networks of family heads and representatives to achieve this.

21. Communication and Engagement Strategy. A communication and engagement strategy that includes defined key messages, the creation of a Nation-level newsletter/website providing updates, the training of community members in up-to-date communication methods, and ensuring all our members are informed and on the same page as needed.

22. Creation of Materials. We will produce materials that will be accessible for everyone and meet their needs of what they want to know. These materials can include a Nation-level newsletter (paper and digital), website and/or app, commercials or advertisements, social media engagement to connect with our audience, and the creations of videos highlighting key messages and initiatives.

23. Creating Engagement Tools. Engagement with our communities will be strengthened by providing our community members with the necessary tools and information. These may include public speaking and facilitator training and access to resource materials that support team members in organizing and facilitating meetings, creating safe spaces and being respectful in messaging, determining who the target audiences are and how they key messages are delivered. We will look at different tools and methods to deliver our messages to our audience and the opportunities to employ different engagement methodologies for improved interactions with children, teens, elders and off-reserve members.

24. Information Sharing. Improved information sharing will provide opportunities to share our successes and what is and is not working in each community. Methods to achieve this may include common training opportunities all people providing or receiving services, holding regularized Stsmémelt Technical Working Group (STWG) meetings, conducting and sharing the findings of literature reviews, using technology platforms to share how each community is doing such as SharePoint, and establishing our own website with such resources incorporated.



Doreen M. Johnson, Stsmémelt Planner -

Secwepemc Strong