Secwépemc Child and Family Services (SCFS) now has a larger, one-stop shop from which to operate — a far cry from more humble accommodations in the early days of the organization.
On Oct. 27, SCFS took occupancy of its new, modular facility, built next door to its former home along Kootenay Way on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc reserve. Many gathered at the new $10-million facility for tours and remarks from dignitaries.
SCFS executive director Yvonne Hare said when the organization began more than 20 years ago, staff were operating out of a basement. A lack of funding for capital projects over the years hindered growth, but that has changed thanks to Indigenous Services Canada, which fully funded the new building’s cost.
Hare described the new facility to KTW as a “dream vision” for SCFS to offer services to families of the seven area First Nations the organization oversees. SCFS has about 120 employees and the new building has the capacity to house up to 150.
That wasn’t the case previously as SCFS staff were spread out around the city and reserve.
Hare said only about a quarter of employees could fit in the red building next door, noting SCFS also leased two locations on Victoria Street in downtown Kamloops for the early years, family support wellness and mental-health programs. Those programs will now be brought under the new Kootenay Way facility roof. Another program for high-risk youth will remain at its TranquilleRoad location, while the red building is being leased out.
Tk’emlúps Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir said SCFS brings culture and values together.
“Seeing the size of this building and looking at the footprint here [compared] to the old footprint, you can see the importance and demand,” Casimir said.
The new 30,000-square-foot facility includes gender-neutral bathrooms, an outdoor playground, an Indigenous pit house setting in the middle of the lobby, an industrial-sized kitchen, a conference centre and a multitude of offices.
NRB Modular Solutions was the design builder of the new facility. Adrian Matuk, vice-president of NRB West, said the building comes equipped with features such as the sunken seating area pit house and a wide open window-laden area that aren’t ordinarily included in modular builds.
“We can do it, but the imagination isn’t always there or the need isn’t always there for these big, open spans,” Matuk said.
Ground was broken about 18 months ago. The modular build underwent a faster construction process than a traditional build as each modular was fabricated down the road at NRB and assembled on the property.
“They stack them up like Lego blocks,” SCFS communications manager Mike Garrett noted.
Indigenous Child and Family chair Mary Teegee said the Indigenous Services Canada funding came in the wake of a 2016 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that followed a 14-year court battle.
“This sacred space, this new building, is emblematic of this new day,” Teegee told those gathered.
That tribunal ruling found the Canadian government discriminated against Indigenous children by underfunding the on-reserve child welfare system and ordered Ottawa to pay for on-reserve child welfare services based on a needs-based budget that includes culturally rooted prevention services.