Huu-ay-aht First Nations and BC are celebrating the creation of the Oomiiqsu (Aboriginal Mothers Center), a new housing, support and child care center that will help indigenous women and children on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
“Huu-ay-aht has removed a lot of stones to get to this point of having a mother center,” said Edward R. Johnson, a Huu-ay-aht councilman. “Through the voices of our citizens in the Social Services Report, it is clear that Oomiiqsu will create a positive impact on the families and children of Huu-ay-aht by preventing the traumas that many families have had to face. Oomiiqsu will be a place to bring children home, where mothers and children will feel safe, healthy and connected, and will be able to look back and tell many wonderful stories.”
As part of the 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-story transitional housing, child care and support center will be managed and operated by the Department of Child and Family Welfare of the Huu-ay-aht government. The center will provide a safe and culturally appropriate home for up to 48 mothers and children leaving violence or abuse, dealing with mental health and addiction issues, 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 in Charge of Housing. “In Oomiiqsu, you will find stability, security and access to support in a way that works specifically for the Nuu-chah-nulth people. I commend the Huu-ay-aht First Nations leadership and staff for creating this innovative opportunity to work together on these much-needed new transitional homes.”
The center will have private bedrooms and bathrooms; shared living, kitchen and dining spaces; and laundry. Residents will have access to on-site child care that will include eight slots for children up to three years old and 16 slots for children ages 30 months to school age. The Huu-ay-aht First Nations Department of Child and Family Welfare will have office space on the first floor of the building.
Huu-ay-aht will operate the building, providing 24/7 support services to indigenous mothers experiencing violence. The comprehensive supports provided by the province will give families the best chance to stay together and help address the systemic factors that lead to the disproportionate number of indigenous children in care.
The project is made possible through a partnership between Huu-ay-aht and the BC government. The Province is investing up to $5 million for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations to cover the initial operating costs of the Oomiiqsu Mothers’ Center. BC Housing is investing approximately $10 million through the Building BC: Women’s Transition Housing Fund and will provide $88,000 in annual operating funds. The Ministry of Education and Child Care is providing almost $800,000 for child care spaces.
By honoring First Nations culture and focusing on reviving family, community and cultural connections, this new model of care is an essential part of reconciliation. The center will open for women and children in the summer of 2024.
Josie Osborne, Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA –
“Oomiiqsu is a unique indigenous-led approach to family services that will make Huu-ay-aht and other communities along Vancouver Island’s west coast stronger and healthier. The center is an opportunity to support Huu-ay-aht’s vision of advancing child welfare issues and supporting resilient families and children.”
Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care –
“Oomiiqsu will provide indigenous-led childcare and comprehensive supports and services that focus on healing and strengthening families. For many vulnerable families and those facing various traumas, mothers in particular, being able to access culturally appropriate child care in a safe space is the peace of mind needed to continue their healing journeys, and Oomiiqsu offers this holistic approach.”
- Oomiiqsu is modeled after the Vancouver Aboriginal Mothers Center, which was established in 2002 on Vancouver’s east end.
- Huu-ay-aht First Nations is an indigenous community located on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is part of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation, formerly called the Nutka.
- Huu-ay-aht is part of the Maa-nulth Final Agreement, a modern treaty that grants its five member countries constitutionally protected self-government, as well as ownership, control, and legislative authority over their lands and resources.
- As with all projects for women and children leaving violence, the address of this project has not been revealed for security reasons.
Huu-ay-aht First Nations: https://huuyaht.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