From left to right: John Matoush (Deputy Chief of Mistissini), Norman A Wapachee (Deputy Grand Chief), Bella Petawabano (Cree Youth Protection Commissioner), Lorraine Spencer (Cree Youth Protection Commissioner), Catherine Lemay (National Director of Youth Protection), Dr. Cindy Blackstock (Executive Director of First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada), Bertie Wapachee (Chairperson of the CBHSSJB), Michael Petawabano (Chief of Mistissini)
On September 7, 2023, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB) and the
awash uschiniichisuu shikascheimuun Task Force hosted a special event in Mistissini to launch community consultations of the aah chishtipistihch-uschiniichisiu sikischaayimuwiniyiu – the Cree Youth Protection Commission (CYPC), a landmark project for the Cree Nation.
ᐄᔨᔨᐅᔨᒧᐎᓐ | IIYIYIUYIMUWIN
Bertie Wapachee, CBHSSJB Chairperson talks to Luke Macleod on JBCCS about the launch of the Commission
At the launch event, CBHSSJB Chair Bertie Wapachee and the CYPC chaashtipishtihch/commissioners, Bella M. Petawabano and Lorraine Spencer, welcomed honoured guests, including Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada, Deputy Grand Chief Norman Wapachee, Mistissini Chief Michael Petawabano, Catherine Lemay, National Director of Youth Protection of Quebec, as well as other distinguished guests who by their work and contributions have made this commission possible.
More than 100 people attended the launch event at the Neoskweskau Sports Complex, including the awash uschiniichisuu shikascheimuun Task Force, members of the Cree Health Board of Directors, Elders, children, and community members.
The Cree Youth Protection Commission’s mandate and goal is to adapt Youth Protection Services to Cree culture, values, needs and realities. This mandate is guiding a phased consultation process with CBHSSJB employees, partner organizations, and community members in 2023 – 2024.
“Our future, as a Nation, is determined by how we protect, provide, care for and nurture our children. Unfortunately, the current situation in Eeyou Istchee shows that something is not working,” said Bertie Wapachee, CBHSSJB chairperson. “As the organization responsible for the Youth Protection Services and certain Youth Criminal Justice Services in our region – our goal is to identify Cree Principles in designing the new Cree Program to reinforce culturally safe practices and approaches to current legislation.”
Community consultations will take place across Eeyou Istchee in coming months, when the CYPC chaashtipishtihch/commissioners, Bella M. Petawabano and Lorraine Spencer will travel to each community to hear and listen to peoples’ stories, experiences, views, observations and solutions for youth protection services in Eeyou Istchee.
People in Eeyou Istchee can participate in different ways through this consultation process, by attending community meetings, sharing their stories, or meeting with the commissioners privately.
“The government of Québec is committed to supporting the Crees throughout the processes that will lead to the implementation of youth protection services that reflect their values, traditions, ways of healing and caring for their children and that meet the needs of the Eeyou Istchee region.”
Catherine Lemay, National Director of Youth Protection
“The over-representation of First Nations children and youth in child welfare and juvenile justice are symptoms of the poverty, poor housing, addictions, and domestic violence that flow from historic and contemporary colonialism,” said Dr. Cindy Blackstock. “This Commission has an important opportunity to document solutions that get at the source of the problem. Children only have one childhood, and they need us to enact the solutions that are already on the books and those the Commission may propose.”
Watch: Dr. Cindy Blackstock’s speech
Watch Deputy Grand Chief Norman Wapachee’s speech
Watch Mistissini Chief Michael Petawabano’s speech
After the launch, the delegation visited the Youth Healing Services building in Mistissini. Thank-you Jessica Jackson-Clément, Director of Youth Healing Services, her team and the youth for their warm welcome.