Children welcomed to historic homecoming

  • Wed Sep 19th, 2007 5:00pm
  • News

By Charlotte TarverWhen the Queen of Prince Rupert docks at Skidegate today (Sept. 20) there will be 15 excited Haida children on board – some of whom have never been here before, some returning after long absences. The children, aged four to 17, are in foster care and live in homes scattered across northern BC. They are coming to the first-ever Haida Homecoming celebration taking place in Skidegate and Old Massett from Thursday through Sunday. The Haida Child and Family Services Society, the local agency responsible for children in foster care, is bringing the children to Haida Gwaii to help them reconnect with their cultural roots and their extended families. “There are 60 Haida children living in foster care throughout BC, we wanted to bring them all home for a visit… but for this historic first visit, we are doing a mini-homecoming for kids in the northern region,” said Bill McKenzie, acting director of Haida Child and Family Services. Four days of welcoming feasts, ceremonies, singing and dancing are planned for the children, their foster parents and special guests. “They will spend the day in Skidegate on Friday, go to the Qay Centre, go on canoe rides. Saturday is in Masset, they will go to Yan… have a picnic, and free family time,” Mr. McKenzie said. “Some of the children were placed in foster care here, then the foster parents moved elsewhere. Some have never been here as they were taken into care elsewhere,” he explained. “Many have lost their connection with their Haida culture and families.” “One 11-year-old boy left the islands with his foster parents when he was four. Every year he has asked to come back… he remembers going fishing with his uncle,” he said. “The youngest child is four and will be coming with three siblings… all are in the same foster home.” A number of special guests will be at the Homecoming, such as Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, BC Representive for Children and Youth, and Rob Parenteau, the provincial executive director of Aboriginal Services from Victoria, and others. “This has been a real collaborative effort by all,” said Mr. McKenzie. “BC Ferries has given free passes to everyone… the children, their foster parents, social workers.” Skidegate Band Council, the Delmas Co-op, local businesses and families have all given contributions for the Homecoming, he sai