Indigenous housing project sparks land discourse

Lii Michif Otipemisiwak Family and Community Services shared land project with Métis delegates

A housing project to support Métis and First Nations individuals between the ages of 16 and 27 transition from the foster care system successfully into independent living for young adults with the added benefit of 24-7 support from Indigenous elders is in motion.

On Saturday, July 25, several socially distant Métis representatives from all over B.C. stood outside Kikekyelc: A Place of Belonging in Kamloops to hear Lii Michif Otipemisiwak Family and Community Services executive director Colleen Lucier make opening remarks and raise awareness about the condo development that’s currently being built in response to Indigenous youth who fell into homelessness, addictions, poverty and unemployment after aging out of the child welfare system.

The housing complex broke ground in July of 2019 and expects to open the doors for young adults and elders alike on Sept. 1, 2020.

“I always say this isn’t a success story,” Lucier told her Métis peers at the entrance of Kikekyelc. “We shouldn’t need a place like this to begin with.”

Amidst the Métis citizens and cultural garb featuring floral beadwork, fringe and tassel leather vests in a small group of approximately 15 delegates on a 30 Celsius degree afternoon on a concrete sidewalk, presidential nominee candidate Walter Mineault and his newly formed slate team for this fall’s Métis Nation of B.C. (MNBC) election viewed the property at 975 Singh Street from a distance.

Columbia Valley Métis Association president Debra Fisher, among the attendees, listened intently to a description about how the project came to life after two teens fell into dire living situations after aging out of foster care.

Lucier described the deliberate approach to incorporating First Nation and Métis culture went visibly into the project.

There are First Nations patterns printed on the property’s BC Hydro box next to local plants growing in the gardens.

In addition to the subtle accents from the culture, there were several culturally distinctive gathering places pointed out after being incorporated into the design of the condo to encourage cultural teachings and awareness to the Brocklehurst community in Kamloops who visit or reside on the property, starting with successful applicants this fall.

“Service providers haven’t always felt connected to the nation and I would have loved to have the nation’s support on this,” Lucier said, noting that it would have been preferable to tell the community that MNBC had been on-board and in support of the project as it evolved.

However, MNBC vice president Lissa Smith, standing among those in attendance, offered apologies that her peers from the current MNBC administration had not attended the previously held official opening ceremonies with Lucier and indicated that the MNBC leadership team was not aware of the official opening ceremonies when they were recently held.

MNBC president Clara Morin Dal Col was unavailable by phone and e-mail for comments about this initiative before the Pioneer went to press.

Fisher, recently drove 488 kilometres from Invermere to Kamloops with the intent of visiting Kikekyelc to view the property and to network with the Métis community.

After personally providing emergency care, respite care and foster care as a host family in the Columbia Valley for a total of 35 children, Fisher was solemn yet passionate about the housing project. She remains optimistic about seeing similar housing initiatives take shape for Métis citizens and First Nations people in B.C. in the future.

“I have talked about having something like this in the Kootenays for probably 20 years, and now that I’ve seen it, I believe it’s the absolute best solution for youth aging out of foster care,” Fisher told the Pioneer after hearing remarks for various dignitaries. “Their whole support system disappears after they graduate. It’s cruel… The issues about child and family are near and dear to my heart.”

To apply for an elder or a youth spot at the residence, please visit: https://lmofcs.ca/kikekyelc/ to learn more.

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