FVACFSS Winter Newsletter – 2019


Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children & Family Services Society

Winter 2019 Newsletter

Message from the Board of Directors


Left to right: Glenda Campbell, Wenona Hall, Jennifer Janik, Peter John, Marion Mussell.

The Board has had a busy past few months. We held our Annual General Meeting at Squiala First Nation, on October 23, 2019. We raise our hands to Chief David Jimmie, who was the Master of Ceremonies and to his community members for the warm welcome to the Squiala. The usual business of an AGM of reporting to the membership was conducted.

Kyla Darby, Director of Practice provided an update on the Service Delivery Revitalization model that Xyólheméylh is undertaking. The model will improve service in Stó:lō communities. Rod Spitzig, Director of Administrative Services gave an update on the new collective agreement that was created in 2018-2019, and spoke to the expenditure of additional funding the agency received from the federal government to improve services in Stó:lō communities and to hire additional staff.

Marion Mussell provided an overview of the Board’s activities in 2019-2019 and described the new Executive Leadership Team (ELT) that was created by the Board. The ELT consists of an Executive Director, a Director of Practice and a Director of Administrative Services. The new leadership model, she explained, reflects leadership structures in Stó:lō traditional culture – one of collaboration and shared responsibility.

Three new members were elected to the Board of Directors: Glenda Campbell (Chi’yaqtel), Wenona Hall (Skwokale) and Jennifer Janik (Chi’yaqtel). Marion Mussell (Sqwá) and Peter John (Chawathil) were re-elected and will serve a second term. We welcome the newly elected members. The Board also wishes to express appreciation to all nine candidates who put their names forward for the five positions. A heartfelt thank you was expressed to Tammy Bartz, Dianne Garner and Sheradon Roberts for their devotion to the Board’s work over their past terms. Tammy, Diane and Sheradon gave of their time, experience and many talents “in good ways” to support and strengthen the Board’s governance and oversight processes and thereby supported and strengthen the agency’s work with the families and children.

At the close of the meeting the new Board members were blanketed and received the well wishes of the members and staff.

As we continue to move forward the Board will be pleased to meet with stakeholders to share in more detail the work we are doing. During the past year, the Board President presented to several groups in Stō:ló territory and the information sharing proves to be a beneficial experience for both parties. If you would like us to make a presentation at your next meeting, please contact Michelle Giroux at [email protected]. Please see our 2018 and 2019 Annual Report that is available on-line. Click here to see our 2018-2019 Annual Report.

As we wind down for winter traditions, and the Christmas season, the Board wishes all our stakeholders, Elders, caregivers, staff and community partners a wonderful, peaceful and restful holiday with friends and family. Éy té mót, Éy té thále, Éy té sqwálawel.


Caregiver Appreciation


Over 100 caregivers attended FVACFSS’s annual Caregiver Appreciation event on October 16 at the Rancho in Abbotsford for an evening of great food, cultural performances and a presentation by Dr. Sonny McHalsie, Stó:lō historian. To show our appreciation for their hard work and commitment to caring for children, we made a video which features Xyólheméylh staff, board members and Elders.


New Zealand Minister visits Xyólheméylh


New Zealand Minister of Children, Tracy Martin met with Xyólheméylh staff and board members on October 7 to learn and share best practices on child welfare and Indigenous populations. The discussion was wide ranging, from government funding to self-governance, strengthening communities, mental health. Much of the discussion centered around our new service delivery model which seeks to strengthen Stó:lō communities. Pictured above: Collette Williams of the Skwah First Nation and NZ Minister Tracey Martin share traditional NZ Maori greeting.

Elders and Youth Gathering

Elders and Youth Gathering

On Oct. 25 and 26, over 100 Elders and Youth gathered at Squiala First Nation to participate in workshops, celebrate culture, and have fun. Keynote Speaker, Earl Lambert, gave an inspiring speech on Friday evening. Lambert is a Cree/Metis motivational speaker and inspirational storyteller who combines music, magic, hip hop, and humour to present a message of optimism, hope and pride in Indigenous culture. He also presented workshops on the Spirit of Self-esteem on Saturday. Stó:lō historian, Dr. Sonny McHalsie took participants on a bus tour of Stó:lō territory; Darcy Paul led a Sweat Lodge workshop; Saylesh Wesley did a workshop on spiritual healing; Fred Jackson taught paddle artwork; and Wendy Ritchie presented on traditional medicine.

Vision & Voices 


The Vision & Voices Youth Advisory Committee held its annual forum on November 22 and 23, with approximately 30 youth in care or previously in care, attending the overnight event at Camp Charis in Chilliwack. Motivational speaker and musician, Mike Scott joined the youth for the weekend and presented two inspirational workshops. On the Friday evening he talked about his own story as a youth in care, and how he overcame drug and alcohol abuse and developed leadership skills. On Saturday, Mike talked to the youth about his journey as a musician, held a lyric writing workshop and talked about art and specifically, writing, as a way to release pain from the body and spirit. The youth then shared their own lyrics and poems. He also spoke about healthy relationships, and the importance of loving yourself. "It's important for you to be ok with being alone - you and the creator." The weekend also featured art workshops, a climbing wall, Medicine and  Slahal teachings and tournament, and a Circle talk with Jennifer Charlesworth, the Representative for Children and Youth in BC.

Staff Appreciation 


We held our annual staff appreciation event on Nov. 5 at the Coqualeetza Longhouse. A special honouring was held for Team Leader Elly Janik who has been with Xyólheméylh for over 25 years. Unfortunately, Elly couldn’t attend but her sister Lorelei Roberts stood in for her. Also, in attendance was Elly’s spirit animal, an owl, which watched the event from the Longhouse rafters. Dan Ludeman spoke of Elly’s patience and calmness and how she helped him understand the power of the community. A number of staff were honoured for long term service. Elly Janek, Janey Commodore, Herb Joe, Sonya Halper and Lorelei Roberts were all honoured for 25 plus years of service.

Speaker Brandon Chappell from the Semiahmoo First Nation, explained the two fires burning in the Longhouse as representing the land of the living and the land of death and how it’s an honour to stand in between.

Elder Rosemary Treherne said it was an honour to see our culture and traditions at the event and told staff: “I’m so proud of all of you. So many of you go beyond your job descriptions and that’s what makes us strong.”

Watch the Video

Children in care christmas parties

Children in care christmas parties

We hosted two Christmas parties for Children in Care in Chilliwack on November 30 and Abbotsford on December 7. The kids had their photo taken with Santa, decorated cookies and Christmas ornaments and participated in a drum circle.

Upcoming Events


Vision & Voices Children & Caregivers Event

Saturday, March 7  9 am - 3:30 pm Neighbourhood Learning Centre (46361 Yale Road, Chilliwack Caregiver workshops, cultural activities for children, door prizes. Event is for children 6-12 years. Caregivers must attend with children, no child drop offs.Register by February 21. Register at: www.fvacfss.ca