The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) took over the fourth floor of the Landmark building in Kelowna Tuesday with calls for the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) to recognize the rights of Aboriginal Children and Families.
“We send a message with our drums, we send a message with our signs, we send a message with our children,” said Organizer Laurie Wilson.
“This is the place where they make these decisions that affect our families. We want them to know who we are, we want them to know what we are saying and we want them to know what our message is.”
Over 50 protesters crammed the hallway of the MCFD building with signs, drums, and song. The MCFD was anticipating the protest and had closed their office for the event, with a metal gate across the entrance. No one from their office would comment to media.
The action on Tuesday was part of continued work by the ONA that they claimed creates coordination and partnerships to deal with generations of failed policies that have harmed generations of Aboriginal children and families with no explanation or rationale.
“We are not going anywhere, we have to work in partnership and create strong processes. We have to be seen, we are not invisible, our ways work, our ways work to make happy children,” added Wilson.
“This is generations and generations and generations of people fighting for the rights of our children.”
Wilson's mother, Residential school survivor Dorothy Ward, was also on hand for the protest. She told the crowd about how this has been a lifelong battle for her.
“I have to keep saying this and telling our politicians that we have no more rights now then we did then. Under the law they can come take people away,” said Ward.
“They don't care and we have to make them care.”
Another Residential school survivor and ONA elder Jack Krueger compared the government's actions to the ones he experienced in residential school.
“They took me away when I was a kid and I had no choice because it was the law. The Ministry is doing the same thing today, they are using the law to take our children away,” said Krueger.
“I am telling you that it hurts to be kidnapped and taken away from your family.”
The group strongly believes in the Indigenous Approaches process.
A process the ONA stated had created direct service that works for Aboriginal families and has resulted in improved outcomes for Aboriginal Children and Families in Okanagan Territory.
“The partnerships built have shown us that there are good people on all levels who want to see Aboriginal Peoples have healthy communities. The barrier is the system; it is time for a change in that system.”
The event wrapped up with a prayer and drum song to leave their presence in the building.
“Our children are our future and we can look after them. We want to leave sometime in here, a spirit in this place that makes them think of us when they are making these decisions,” said Wilson.