Huu-ay-aht First Nations, Province partner to create Oomiiqsu Mother Centre

From left to right: Ed Ross (Tseshaht Council Member), Josie Osborne (Minster of Land, Water, and Resource Stewardship and MLA for Mid-Island-Pacific Rim), Edward R. Johnson (Huu-ay-aht Council Member), Brandy Lauder (Hupačasatḥ Chief Councillor), Murray Rankin (Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Attorney General and Minister of Housing), Gord Johns (MP Courtenay—Alberni).

PORT ALBERNI – Huu-ay-aht First Nations and B.C. are celebrating the creation of the Oomiiqsu (Aboriginal Mother Centre), a new housing, support and child care centre that will help Indigenous women and children on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

“Huu-ay-aht has turned over many stones to reach this point of having a mother centre,” said Edward R. Johnson, Huu-ay-aht Councillor. “Through the voices of our citizens in the Social Services Report, it is apparent that Oomiiqsu is going to create a positive impact to Huu-ay-aht families and children in preventing the traumas that many families have had to face. Oomiiqsu is going to be a place to bring children home, where mothers and children will feel safe, healthy and connected, and they will be able to look back and tell many wonderful stories.”

As part of Huu-ay-aht Social Services Project formed in 2017, 30 recommendations were created in the report “Safe, Healthy and Connected: Bringing Huu-ay-aht Children Home.” Oomiiqsu is a response to recommendation 26.

Oomiiqsu, meaning mother, is an Indigenous-led model of care developed by Huu-ay-aht in consultation with its members. The two-storey transition housing, child care and support centre will be managed and operated by the Huu-ay-aht government’s Child and Family Wellness Department. The centre will provide a safe and culturally appropriate home for as many as 48 mothers and children leaving violence or abuse, facing mental-health and addictions challenges, poverty or other trauma.

“This partnership between the Province and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations will make an important difference on the west coast of Vancouver Island, where many communities are remote and provide few options for mothers and their children in need,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Minister Responsible for Housing. “At Oomiiqsu, they will find stability, security and access to support in a way that works specifically for the Nuu-chah-nulth people. I commend the leadership and staff of Huu-ay-aht First Nations for creating this innovative opportunity to work together on these much-needed new transition homes.”

The centre will have private bedrooms and washrooms; shared living, kitchen and dining spaces; and laundry facilities. Residents will have access to on-site child care that will include eight spaces for children as old as three and 16 spaces for children 30 months to school age. The Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ Child and Family Wellness Department will have office space on the first floor of the building.

Huu-ay-aht will operate the building, providing support services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to Indigenous mothers experiencing violence. Wraparound supports provided by the Province will give families the best chance of staying together and will help address systemic factors leading to the disproportionate number of Indigenous children in care.

The project is made possible thanks to a partnership between the Huu-ay-aht and the B.C. Government. The Province is investing as much as $5 million for Huu-ay-aht First Nations to cover initial operating costs for the Oomiiqsu Mother’s Centre. BC Housing is investing approximately $10 million through the Building BC: Women’s Transition Housing Fund and will provide $88,000 in annual operating funding. The Ministry of Education and Child Care is providing nearly $800,000 for child care spaces.

By honouring First Nations culture and focusing on reviving familial, community and cultural connections, this new model of care is an essential part of reconciliation. The centre will open for women and children in summer 2024.

Quotes:

Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim –
“Oomiiqsu is a unique, Indigenous-led approach to family services that will make Huu-ay-aht and other communities along the west coast of Vancouver Island stronger and healthier. The centre is an opportunity to support Huu-ay-aht’s vision to advance child welfare matters and support resilient families and children.”

Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care –
“Oomiiqsu will provide Indigenous-led child care and wraparound supports and services that focus on healing and strengthening families. For many vulnerable families and those dealing with various trauma – notably mothers – being able to access culturally appropriate child care in a safe space is the peace of mind needed to continue on their healing journeys, and Oomiiqsu offers this holistic approach.”

Quick Facts:

• Oomiiqsu is modelled after the Vancouver Aboriginal Mother’s Centre, which was established in 2002 in Vancouver’s east end.
• Huu-ay-aht First Nations is an Indigenous community located on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is a part of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation, formerly called the Nootka.
• Huu-ay-aht is a party to the Maa-nulth Final Agreement, a modern treaty that grants its five member Nations constitutionally protected self-government, as well as ownership, control and law-making authority over their lands and resources.
• As with all projects for women and children leaving violence, the address of this project has not been disclosed for safety reasons.

Learn More:
Huu-ay-aht First Nations: https://huuayaht.org/
Huu-ay-aht Social Services project video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CouVqqWK72k
Huu-ay-aht Social Services project report: https://huuayaht.org/wp- content/uploads/2017/08/hfn-social-services-panel-recommendations_final.pdf


Contacts:
Amanda-Lee Cunningham, Communications Manager
Huu-ay-aht First Nations
Amanda.c@huuayaht.org 250-720-7776


Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
Media Relations 236-478-0966

Ministry of Attorney General and Responsible for Housing

Media Relations 236-478-0251

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect

View official press release here: Click here

Huu-ay-aht Invites Families to the 2022 Thrive Together Family Workshop

Huu-ay-aht Child and Family Wellness team invites Huu-ay-aht families (and those caring for Huu-ay-aht children) to learn and grow with Brad and DeeAnna Dennis as they present the Thrive Together Family Workshop over two days (October 12-13, 2022).

Brad and DeeAnna Dennis have invested over 20 years in developing a thriving family life by interweaving their Christian faith in Creator God with Huu-ay-aht teachings. This process has involved decolonizing their Christianity, learning from their Huu-ay-aht ancestors and using the tools they have developed in their professional practice as mental health professionals with children and families. Their workshops are designed to meet the needs of people with various learning styles. So they use stories, interactive exercises visuals, and scientific research.

Journey with Brad and DeeAnna through topics including; healthy roots of self care, strong trunk of marriage & community, and fruit bearing relational parenting.

Use the form below or click here to register.

Huu-ay-aht is one step closer to opening Mother Centre

Offering support and healing from multi-generational trauma is a key focus that came out of Huu-ay-aht’s independent Social Services Panel’s work. In the final report one of the recommendations was to work to establish a centre modeled on the Vancouver Mother Centre.

“Building a road to healing the effects of multi-generational trauma will be of fundamental and central importance to bringing Huu-ay-aht children ‘home’ and keeping them safe, healthy, and connected with Huu-ay-aht community and culture.  This healing must be done family by family and collectively as a Nation.” (Social Services Project p. 24)

Huu-ay-aht First Nations and the Port Alberni Mother Centre Society has been working with B.C. Housing to develop an Aboriginal Mother Centre, Oomiiqsu, in Port Alberni (Recommendation 26 of the Social Services Project).  Oomiiqsu, which means mother in Nuu-chah-nulth, is a unique, creative, and culturally appropriate approach to keeping families together, while providing them with the necessary guidance and tools to not only prevent children from entering care, but also for the families to flourish once outside of Oomiiqsu. Mothers and children (12 and under) will live in Oomiiqsu and receive wrap-around supports to address ongoing safety concerns from Usma (DAA) and/or Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Oomiiqsu will house multiple programs and services to support Huu-ay-aht and other Nuu-chah-nulth families:

  • 12-unit residential program for mothers and their children, ages 9-12
  • Four second-stage housing units
  • Oomiiqsu Child Care Centre
  • Office space for the Child and Family Wellness Department

Land has been purchased by BC Housing at 4305 Kendall Avenue and design plans for Oomiiqsu and Oomiiqsu Child Care Centre are complete. The Nation is still finalizing the plan for the centre, and we look forward to sharing this rendering with everyone once plans are finalized.

 Further progress on the project is subject to other approvals and funding from partners, but Huu-ay-aht is committed to making this centre a reality. As we move through the initial steps, we will continue to offer regular updates when they are available.

Huu-ay-aht made a rezoning application to the City of Port Alberni on September 14, 2020. Signage notifying the public of this rezoning will be posted at the proposed site within 15 days to notify the public. 

This is an exciting project for Huu-ay-aht and the Alberni Valley, and we look forward to sharing more information from you as the plan progresses.

Invitation to parents, grandparents, foster parents and Caregivers

Panel seeks citizen input for Huu-ay-aht solution.

Huu-ay-aht wishes to develop “Made-in-Huu-ay-aht” solutions that will help keep our children safe, happy, healthy, and connected to their Huu-ay-aht families and culture. An independent, four-member panel has been appointed to explore and recommend changes and improvements to child and family services for Huu-ay-aht families.

The panel has respectfully requested that Huu-ay-aht citizens meet with them to share stories and experiences. The panel needs to hear and learn from our people and from all caregivers for our children to understand what is working and what is not working for Huu-ay-aht children and families.

The Panel wishes to hear from us about:

  • You or your families experiences with child and family services,
  • Stories you have been told that guide or anchor a Huu-ay-aht way of caring for children and families,
  • Your thoughts and ideas about how to bring our children home and keep them safe, happy, healthy, and connected to our Huu-ay-aht culture.

The panel is open to meeting in whatever way people feel safe and comfortable to discuss these important issues, for example, with individuals privately and confidentially, with family groups, and in community gatherings.

The panel will also be available to meet in a variety of locations (e.g. Anacla, Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Vancouver). For those who prefer to provide input to the panel in writing please send your written comments to the panel at the email address below.

The first community gathering with the panel will be:  

Sunday             and             Monday
January 15                          January 16
12 to 5 p.m.                         9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

At the Cedar Wood Lodge, 5895 River Road, Port Alberni, B.C.

Meeting Materials 

Agenda

Community Services section of the Strategic Plan

Everyone who has information to share is encouraged to come. Please contact the panel at hfnpanel@gmail.com.