The founding members of the society are Barbara Mitchell, Comox Band, Lorna Quatel, Campbell River Band, Audrey Wilson, Cape Mudge, Pauline (McCrimmon) Janyst, Da'naxda'xw First Nation
In 1991 these First Nations women came together as a result of their concerns regarding the prevalence of family violence in their communities. Pauline did volunteer work at the Campbell River Family Services in the victim services area; she often had women of ethnic backgrounds along with the First Nations women referred to her. She took this concern to the three First Nations band social development workers and asked if there was something they could do. They first organized a support group that Pauline facilitated with her training as a victim service worker. From then she began seeking funding sources to implement a program.
They applied for and received funding from the Ministry of Women’s Equality to design and implement a “Needs Assessment” in three First Nations communities (Cape Mudge, Campbell River and Comox). After examining the results of the Needs Assessment this small group of First Nations women began work on program development and a service delivery model. Initial efforts focused on raising community awareness about subject of family violence and while maintaining women’s support group. The first group to consult with in their communities were the Elders, which today very few remain, but it was with their guidance and support that provided them with the strength to do the work. The three First Nations Bands via their tribal council channelled their on-reserve family violence funds to assist with the needs assessment. With the combined funds, it took nine months to complete the assessment and share with each community. From there the three bands continued to channel their family violence funds to the program and later added the addictions funding. The reason this worked well was many men and women felt more comfortable attending a non-band office for their support and healing. The Cape Mudge bookkeeper managed the funds under their umbrella until they became a non-profit society.
The non-Native community service providers where very supportive during the early days, as they were aware that the “mainstream” services were being under-utilized by First Nations people. As a result of the positive effects of the services being provided by this group, the Ministry of Social Services contracted the group to deliver a Family Support Program to five specific communities (the original three communities plus the communities of Klahoose and Homalco) and urban people, however to access these funds they had to be a non-profit society and occupy office off-reserve. They were currently operating out of a trailer that Cape Mudge donated to the group, that they had to raise funds to renovate. The moment they moved in they outgrew it and so the coordinator had to seek another location.
So in 1994, Laichwiltach Family Life Society (LFLS) was incorporated as a non-profit organization, three years after the initial group began their journey of developing a service delivery model conceived, designed, initiated, and maintained by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people and their families.
In 1995 the society was contacted by Health Canada (now PHAC) to implement an Aboriginal Head Start Program for the Campbell River and Courtney areas. This was an exciting time for the women to be sought out. The first step was to conduct community engagement sessions to see how this program could be delivered in our area and they also recognized that they could not service the Comox Valley so contacted the Upper Island of Women Ancestry and shared the funds and there are still today two Head Start programs in these communities.
In 2003 LFLS became a charitable organization to further fundraise to keep their programs running. Fundraising has always been at the heart of Laichwiltach Family Life Society. Throughout the history of LFLS they have continued to expand and meet the needs of the Aboriginal people and families in the Campbell River and surrounding area and have created positive and credible relationships with a number of funders over the years. First and foremost the society has always met the needs of the people and creating a safe and culturally appropriate service.
Another milestone was receiving funds for the Elder’s in 2005, they call their program Re-kindling the Spirit of Our Elders, a name selected by them. This was a dream come true for them and the society staff.
2009/10 marks the dream of many years; the society is in the planning stages of implementing an urban child welfare program. The Urban Delegated services will be called Many Nations Child & Family Services Program, which will be umbrelled under Laichwiltach Family Life Society. We have 100% support of the surrounding First Nations Bands, Aboriginal organizations and non-Aboriginal organizations. They have an active planning committee made up of members from both Comox Valley and Campbell River along with Elder representation.
As we get closer to the completion of the planning phase, with its final goal of implementation of the program, which will focus on Resources and Guardianship (C3 & C4) work only. Watch for our Open House and Celebration for this New Program.