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Community members gather to discuss ways to reduce child apprehensions in the Cowichan Valley at a town hall hosted by MLA Sonia Furstenau on Feb. 7. <span class=Jacqueline Ronson/The Discourse

No kid left behind? Not in Cowichan

Join us in a community conversation on media and child welfare in the Cowichan Valley.

Last week I attended a town hall organized by Cowichan MLA Sonia Furstenau on the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system. It was heartening to see about 50 people from the community come out to be part of it.

If we can judge a community on the welfare of its children, the Cowichan Valley doesn’t come out looking great. One in four children live below the poverty line. Rates of children in government care are three times the provincial average.

A graph shows the disparity between provincial and regional rates of child poverty.

Many of the panelists who spoke at the Feb. 7 event called for the end of child apprehensions in the Cowichan Valley, and for a culture that supports and protects families, rather than separating them. That effort has been led by Patricia Dawn of the Red Willow Womyn’s Society, and many others. If the statistics are grim, the energy that this community has to repair a discriminatory system is inspiring.

These grassroots efforts to support keeping families together have been getting attention in the media, including in the Globe and Mail, the Tyee and the local Cowichan Valley Citizen. I believe that journalists have an important role to play in sharing stories and information that show what is really going on in the child welfare system, and what could be better. That’s why The Discourse is hosting a community conversation on March 8, International Women’s Day, about how journalists can improve coverage of the child welfare system and families affected by it. 

You’re invited

Youth, parents and others involved in the child welfare system identified issues that need deeper coverage at our project kick-off in June 2018.

Stories about child welfare are especially important to us at The Discourse. That’s because reporter Brielle Morgan has been covering this system deeply for more than two years. She recognized that journalists covering stories related to the child welfare system can do a lot of good – or they can do a lot of harm. Unfortunately, the latter is too common. Often, reporters show up when a kid dies, tell a surface-deep and sensational tale and move on to the next target. That’s some of the feedback Brielle heard when she started covering child welfare issues by listening to people in that community.

I’m very excited to announce that Brielle will join me next month to help lead a conversation on how journalists can do a better job covering child welfare in the Cowichan Valley. She has led similar discussions in Vancouver and Victoria, and is currently leading a collaborative reporting project with nine journalists committed to telling in-depth, data-driven stories on the child welfare system and how it can do better.

The event will be held March 8 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Duncan United Church, 246 Ingram St. The evening is in collaboration with the Cowichan Valley International Women’s Day festival. All are welcome, and we particularly encourage journalists and people involved with or affected by the child welfare system to attend. Food and refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP below so we can be sure to order enough food.

 Let’s gather

  • Feb. 14: ️❤️Forgot to do something for your Valentine? Take them to the South Cowichan branch of the Vancouver Island Public Library in Mill Bay this evening. You’ll get expert help making a heartfelt, handmade card with your sweetie’s face on it. Supplies provided, brownie points guaranteed.

  • Feb 15: 🌲North Cowichan Council will hold a special budget meeting to consider options for its municipal forestry program. Some residents have called for a pause on logging in North Cowichan until a large-scale public consultation is complete. The purpose of this meeting is to consider the council’s options.

  • Feb 15: 🍿It’s movie night at Collective Space! Join Hoovie for a screening of Unrest, the story of woman who couldn’t convince her doctors she was really sick, and discovered millions of others just like her.

  • Feb. 20: 🌿Join the Shawnigan Basin Society for an info session on invasive milfoil, a tangly, feathery plant that forms in vast mats on the water’s surface, and a new potential way it could be controlled in Shawnigan Lake.

News of the week

  • Community members gathered at Si’em’ Lelum Gymnasium on Feb. 9 to remember people who have been murdered or gone missing from the Cowichan Valley and to support their families, the Cowichan Valley Citizen reports. A memorial walk, planned for that day, was postponed because of the inclement weather.

  • Swee’alt, also known as Denise Augustine and the Cowichan Valley School District’s director of Aboriginal education, has accepted a prestigious placement with British Columbia’s Ministry of Education, where she will help lead the implementation of an agreement to improve First Nations education across the province, the Cowichan Valley Citizen reports.

  • The Town of Ladysmith is consulting the public on a proposed increase to the fees it charges housing developers to cover public infrastructure costs, like drinking water and roads, the Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle reports.

  • The Cowichan Valley School District is considering moving older elementary school students in Chemainus and Crofton into portable classrooms or nearby high schools to deal with capacity issues, the Chemainus Valley Courier reports.

Help me share the ❤️for Cowichan by sharing this newsletter with three of your friends. Remind them to subscribe, and it will be the gift that keeps on giving.

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