SMITHERS, B.C. - Oct. 1, 2019 - About 60 people gathered at the Smithers Parents Legal Centre today to mark the centre’s official opening. The centre helps parents when a child is at risk of being removed from the family home or has already been removed by social workers because of safety concerns.

“Before this centre came along, I really was at a loss for one place where I could suggest people go to get the help and the support and the advocacy that this one centre now brings to our town and our communities,” said Bronwyn Young, Program Coordinator for Smithers’ Passage Transition House. “And I am so grateful to be able to look into a mother’s eyes and say, I know where you can call and get help.”

“It’s really been a game changer for a lot of the women who are the most vulnerable staying at a transition house,” Young said at today’s event.

The Parents Legal Centre in Smithers is one of ten centres across the province. The new legal aid services are the Legal Services Society’s (LSS) response to the crisis levels of children in care in BC, particularly Indigenous children.

Smithers was identified as a location where LSS could potentially make an impact, by assisting parents in finding ways to keep their families together, whenever possible.

At December 31, 2018, there were 271 children and youth in care in the Northwest region of BC according to Ministry of Children and Families statistics. Of those, 256 were Indigenous. Although Indigenous people are the focus of the services, any parent who is eligible can get help.

Today's event included entertainment from local drummers with the ‘Ewk Hiyah Hozdli Dance Group Co-Op, an opening prayer from Mabel Forsythe of the Gitdumden Clan of the Wet'suwet'en Nation and cultural blessing from Betty Tom, Elder-in-residence from the Office of the Wet’su’wet’en.

Published on the traditional unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil‑Waututh) Nations.

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L to R: LSS Indigenous Services Manager Katrina Harry, Indigenous Services VP Gail Murray, LSS Board Chair Jean Whittow, PLC staff lawyer Dawn McConnell, Aboriginal Community Legal Worker Jacquie Bowes, Managing Lawyer Megan Olson, and Administrative/Intake Assistant Kayla Stewart

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Smithers PLC Opening Speaker, Bronwyn Young, Program Coordinator,
Passage Transition House