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Media Statement: Racism against Indigenous Cultural Leader by Hyatt Regency Vancouver Staff Prompts Call for Action

PDF of Statement

March 10, 2023 

The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) and First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) are calling for swift action following the racist and disturbing mistreatment of a First Nations man who is a beloved Cultural Advisor and staff member of the BCAAFC by the Hyatt Regency Vancouver. We call on the Hyatt Regency to uphold the safety of Indigenous peoples, to provide mandatory anti-racism training for all staff, to demonstrate accountability for the harm they have caused, and to offer a public apology. 

From February 23-25 BCAAFC hosted a membership meeting at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver hotel for staff and youth from 25 BC Friendship Centres. After dinner on Friday, February 24, the respected Cultural Advisor and community member needed to use the restroom urgently. He sought the closest available restroom where the BCAAFC meetings had occurred over the previous two days in the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

He was refused access to the restroom by a Hyatt Regency employee, despite repeated pleas to use the toilet. After a fourth and urgent request to enter the restroom, the Hyatt Regency again barred access until the Cultural Advisor could no longer control their need to use the toilet, resulting in a public and humiliating incident. Nearby onlookers witnessed the incident take place. The Cultural Advisor recounts how the Hyatt Regency employee mocked them and smirked after noticing their wet clothing. The BCAAFC Cultural Advisor was extremely humiliated and traumatized.

The Hyatt Regency employee allowed the BCAAFC Cultural Advisor access to the washroom only after it was too late.

Furthermore, the response from Hyatt Regency management has failed to acknowledge this act of anti-Indigenous racism and harm, and the larger issue of systemic racism that so commonly targets Indigenous people.

After being initially dismissed by upper management, the Cultural Advisor received a brief apology that interpreted the incident as a “misunderstanding,” that the staff person was “only doing his job,” and offered a meagre breakfast voucher as compensation.  

The day after the incident, BCAAFC Executive Director Leslie Varley was denied the opportunity to speak with higher level management about this violation of a human right. After learning of the incident, BCAAFC staff pre-emptively concluded the meeting at the Hyatt Regency and withdrew from the hotel to safeguard our community from further violence and racism.  

The behaviour of the Hyatt Regency employee and response from management was abhorrent, unreasonable, and displayed a gross lack of respect for the dignity and well-being of the respected knowledge keeper. It must be made clear that the discriminatory refusal of a person’s basic needs was the result of systemic anti-Indigenous racism and is nothing short of a human rights violation. Corporations that profit from our community must be made aware that mistreatment and anti-Indigenous racism will be called out and investigated with immediacy.

We have significant concerns for the safety of Indigenous peoples at Hyatt Regency that must be addressed. Over the past eight months BCAAFC staff have planned the upcoming March 22-25 Gathering Our Voices (GOV): Indigenous Youth Leadership Training event to take place at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver.  

We cannot, in good conscience, allow a gathering of 1,000 Indigenous youth take place at a venue where violence and racism have recently occurred and may occur again. BCAAFC is now actively seeking alternative locations for events previously scheduled at the Hyatt Regency.  

We call on the Hyatt Regency Vancouver to publicly apologize to BCAAFC staff and to all Indigenous peoples for enabling racist behaviour of their staff. We call on the Hyatt Regency Vancouver to take action to amend policy, procedures and practices to address Indigenous-specific racism including providing mandatory anti-racism training for staff, as outlined by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

To be clear, BCAAFC is not seeking a financial compensation. Further, BCAAFC does not want the Hyatt to address this as merely one employee’s action. We seek to ensure all staff are trained to understand their biases against Indigenous peoples and enact measures to ensure systemic racism is addressed throughout the Hyatt organization.

BCAAFC is seeking additional volunteers for the March 22-25 Gathering Our Voices (GOV): Indigenous Youth Leadership Training event to assist in keeping Indigenous youth safe.  

BCAAFC and the FNLC stand firmly with our relative and cultural leader who experienced profound harm and raise our hands to them for their courage and strength in coming forward in the pursuit of justice, to demand dignity and human rights for our future generations.

On behalf of the undersigned:  

Leslie Varley, Executive Director, BCAAFC  

Elijah Mack, President, BCAAFC  

Carole Camille, Board Member, BCAAFC

Cal Albright, Board Member, BCAAFC

Rosanna McGregor, Board Member

Fabian Alexis, Board Member, BCAAFC

Tami Omeasoo, Board Member, BCAAFC

Cyndi Stephens, Board Member, BCAAFC



Cheryl Casimer

Robert Phillips

Hugh Braker


Grand Chief Steward Phillip

Chief Don Tom

Chief Marilyn Slett


Regional Chief Terry Teegee

Media contact:

Apply to volunteer at GOV2023:

Statement on Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs up to 2.5 Grams

The pilot project for the decriminalization of illicit drugs in B.C. does not adequately address the unnecessary loss of lives due to the poisoned drug crisis.

February 1, 2023

PDF of Statement

The toxic illicit drug crisis impacts everyone, and disproportionately impacts Indigenous peoples and our urban communities.

While we support the urgent need for drug reform in this country, Health Canada’s new exemption for the Province of B.C. under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act does not go far enough to address the systemic causes of deaths related to the toxic drug crisis. The cumulative amount of illicit drugs that qualifies for decriminalization is drastically low relative to the amount required to end the criminalization of drug users, and is not substantiated by evidence as being effective in preventing substance use-related deaths in our communities.

BCAAFC was one of several member organizations of the Decriminalization Core Planning Table that contributed to the preparation of the BC Government’s s. 56(1) exemption request to Health Canada. The exemption request was guided by our commitment to addressing the unnecessary loss of lives due to the poisoned drug crisis which disproportionately impacts Indigenous peoples in B.C. and across Canada.

In November of 2021, members of the Province’s Core Planning Table released a statement regarding the province’s application to Health Canada – with concern that the cumulative amount of 4.5 grams was far too low to end criminalization of drug users. Health Canada then lowered the cumulative amount of illicit substances approved for decriminalization to 2.5 grams.  

The 2.0 gram reduction by Health Canada is informed by the interest of police, not by peer-reviewed health research.[1] This reduction only further perpetuates the historical and contemporary forms of colonial violence exerted on Indigenous peoples.

In B.C., First Nations people died at five times the rate of the general rate of BC’s population. First Nation women die from the toxic illicit drug supply at a rate 8.8% higher than non-Indigenous women.[2]

The disproportionate number of Indigenous people ensnared by the criminal legal system also continues to impact Indigenous families and communities. Indigenous adults make up 5% of the population in Canada and 33% of admissions to federal custody in 2020/2021. The rate of incarceration of Indigenous women has increased; women now make up 50% of federally incarcerated women in Canada.[3]

Indigenous youth make up 8% of the Canadian youth population yet represented 50% of all youth admissions to custody in 2020/2021.[4] In B.C., Indigenous youth make up 56% of all youth held in Youth Custody Centres.[5]

The B.C. model for decriminalization does not meet the needs or truths of Indigenous drug users. The model for decriminalization must be informed by drug users and urban Indigenous communities in order to reduce the harms and deaths caused by the continued drug war.

We urge the provincial and federal governments to raise the cumulative amount of illicit drugs that qualifies for decriminalization, and to centre the voices of drugs users in the development of decriminalization policies to make meaningful change.

[1] Akshay Kulkarni, “What you need to know about the decriminalization of possessing illicit drugs in B.C.” CBC News (30 Jan 2023), online: <>; BC Association of Chiefs of Police, “Drug Decriminalization: An integrated approach to improve health and safety outcomes”

[2] Ibid, at 9; Brenna Owen, “First Nations women overrepresented among B.C. toxic drug deaths: doctor” CBC News (1 Feb 2023), online: <>.

[3] Canada, Office of the Correctional Investigator, Media Release, “Proportion of Indigenous Women in Federal Custody Nears 50%: Correctional Investigator Issues Statement” (Ottawa: OCI, 17 Dec 2021), online: <>.

[4] Canada, Department of Justice, State of the Criminal Justice System Impact of COVID-19 on the Criminal Justice System, Cat #: J12-8E-PDF (Ottawa: DOJ, 2022), at 40, online: <>; Statistics Canada, “Adult and youth correctional statistics, 2020/2021” The Daily, Cat no. 11-001-X (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 20 Apr 2022), at 4, online: <>.

[5] British Columbia, Ministry of Children and Family Development, “Community Youth Justice Annual Average” (Victoria: MCFD, Mar 2022), online: <>.

BC Aboriginal Child Care Society – Database Administrator

Database Administrator, Full-time (35 hours/week)

The BC Aboriginal Child Care Society (BCACCS) is a Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care (IELCC). We are looking for an IELCC Database Administrator to manage, maintain, and enhance our IELCC funding database and administrative systems.

Position Summary
Reporting to the IELCC Project Manager, the successful candidate will support the IELCC team to maintain a robust and accurate database of community funding applications and provide various reports on data collected.

What We Offer
The opportunity to work with a passionate and dedicated team of people with a broad range of experience and knowledge, and who provide leadership, training, resources, and services to support Indigenous early learning and child care.

competitive wage of $45,500 – $47,320 yearly, commensurate with knowledge and experience
• extended health package on successful completion of 90-day probationary period
• participation in a matched pension plan
• 35-hour work week
• learning and professional development opportunities
Responsibilities and Deliverables
• Using Blackbaud Grantmaking, support data entry, manage key contact information, and ensure data is backed up appropriately
• Ensure that the security and confidentiality of project data are maintained in alignment with the First Nations Principles of OCAP® (ownership, control, access, and possession), taking extra security precautions when handling identifiable data, as applicable
• Provide ongoing support to the IELCC team and other BCACCS staff by:
o providing limited tech support for team members who use the database
o creating and maintaining team members’ database dashboards, as necessary
o documenting database policies, procedures, and standards
o providing training and/or guidance to fellow team members on database procedures
o preparing data for meetings, reports, and presentations
o training team members on project-specific elements of the database
• Build user-friendly internal and external database forms, while considering the wide variation in users’ ability to access technology
• Build Excel spreadsheets to provide enhanced visuals and greater analysis of data
• Using database filters, build reporting templates and perform ad-hoc data pulls
• Run database queries as needed
• Ensure appropriate security measures are being exercised to mitigate risk
• Create and maintain training and reference materials, as well as procedure manuals

Qualifications, Training, Education, and Experience
Minimum three years’ experience working with databases; experience with Blackbaud Grantmaking is preferred
• Advanced Excel skills, including VLOOKUP, advanced conditional formatting, and pivot tables
• Post-secondary education is desired, preferably in a related field
• Satisfactory criminal record check
• Proof of COVID-19 vaccination

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
• Excellent computer skills, specifically:
o Advanced word processing skills (Word)
o Advanced spreadsheet knowledge (Excel) including manipulating data, creation of data visualizations, formatting, and formulas
o Experience using a database (Blackbaud products preferred)
o Advanced collaboration tools (Outlook, OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams, and Zoom)
o Intermediate Adobe Acrobat Reader/Writer skills, including preparing documents for e- signature and creating fillable PDFs
o Proficient digital file management
• Analytical mindset with exceptional attention to detail, accuracy, and organizational skills
• Knowledge of BC First Nations culture, history, and issues coupled with cultural awareness and sensitivity
• Ability to support a high-performing team in a fast-paced environment by taking initiative, prioritizing needs, and meeting tight deadlines
• Approachable, professional, and personable demeanour with proven ability to build harmonious working relationships with co-workers
• Basic accounting skills and numerical proficiency
• Ability to train other colleagues and create easy-to-follow training materials

Work for this position will be performed primarily remotely, from a home-based office. Must have the ability to work in the office when required, and to attend meetings and other events at various locations. Must be available to work during regular business hours of Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Pacific Standard Time.

Closing Date: Open until filled.
Start date: As soon as possible.
How to apply:
Please submit a resume and cover letter explaining how you meet requirements and send to citing “Application for IELCC Database Administrator” in the subject line. All applications must include cover letter and resume.

We thank all those who apply. Only those candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.
In accordance with section 41 of the BC Human Rights Code and Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, preference will be given to qualified candidates with Aboriginal ancestry.

RFP: Board Training

Attn: Indigenous Consultants and Contractors

The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) is the umbrella association for the 25 Friendship Centres throughout the Province of British Columbia.  Our mission is to advance the Friendship Centre Movement in BC through advocacy and the delivery of programs and services that support the growth and prosperity of our member centers and urban Indigenous people.

The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) is seeking proposals for development of two resources to be developed to support the BCAAFC and member Friendship Centres (FCs).

Scope of Project: Board Governance Manual & Training Guide

  • Manual specific to the BCAAFC Board of Directors
    • Review previous draft board of directors manual, update and refresh to reflect best standards for board governance, and reflecting the goals and vision of the BCAAFC
    • Training modules and manual for onboarding of new FC Boards including
      • Cultural Safety
      • Strategic Recruitment
      • Roles & Responsibilities
      • Board governance policy
      • Addressing conflict
      • Supporting successful FCs
      • AGMs
      • Elections Process
      • Onboarding new EDs
      • Trainers guide
  • *We would like an option to include online training modules to be developed as part of this project.

Timeline for this project:

  • BCAAFC Board Governance Manual Timelines
  • Select successful contract – February 25th, 2023
  • Draft Table of Contacts – summary of topics – May 2023 Board Meeting
  • Draft manual to present to membership – June 2023 Board Meeting
  • Final version of BCAAFC Board Manual for submission – November 2023
  • Board Training Modules and Manual for BC Friendship Centres
  • Select successful contract – March 2nd, 2023
  • Draft layout of training modules – June 2023
  • Draft version of training Modules – November 2023
  • Finalized training modules – February 2024

Evaluation Criteria:

  • RFPs will be reviewed and evaluated based on:
    • If they are an Indigenous organization (35%)
    • Proposed costs (15%)
    • Samples of past work (20%)
    • Proven success with similar companies and projects (20%)
    • Innovative ideas for work (10%)

While all BC based consultants and contracts are encouraged to apply, preference will be given to experienced, Indigenous owned, operated and staffed organizations/businesses.

Please submit your proposals including to Julie Robertson, General Manager at by February 23rd, 2023

Statement in Solidarity with the Families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

December 2, 2022

PDF of Statement

The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) and Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) stand in deep and full solidarity with the families of Rebecca Contois, Morgan Beatrice Harris, Marcedes Myran, and a fourth victim who has not yet been identified. We also stand firmly with Crane River First Nation, where Rebecca was a member, and Long Plain First Nation, where Morgan and Marcedes were members, who are grieving. 

We extend our sincere condolences to the women’s families, and all of the families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, as well as the advocates and communities mourning in Winnipeg, Treaty No. 1 Territory, the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Ininew (Cree), Oji-Cree, Dene, and Dakota, and Homeland of the Métis Nation. 

Their lives were allegedly taken by Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, a resident of Winnipeg, MB and known member of the extremist far-right. A review of alleged murderer Skibicki’s social media presence indicates that he held violent, antisemitic, misogynistic, and white supremacist beliefs.  The consistent and prolonged lack of attention by the federal and provincial governments to the ongoing violence against Indigenous Women and Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, as well as the rise of the far-right targeting marginalized communities, has resulted in horrifying consequences. 

The announcement of these charges comes in the middle of the 16 Days of Activism on Gender-Based Violence and as we approach December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

We call on federal and provincial leaders to take urgent and meaningful action on the calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls which, on page 85, states, “one of the things that makes this National Inquiry unique is that we are not investigating a past wrong, but one that is still ongoing and that is getting worse. Acts of violence stemming from the structures of colonization and coupled with racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are not few and far between, but pervasive, immediate, and urgent. However, this violence is also preventable—if Canadians are willing to change.” 

The BCAAFC and BWSS have long advocated for culturally safe and inclusive anti-violence services for Indigenous women, Black women, immigrant/refugee women, women of colour, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. Federal and provincial funding in these areas continues to inadequately address the disproportionate violence against Indigenous women, Black women, immigrant/refugee women, women of colour and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. 

We continue our work to end gender-based violence, in loving memory of these women, their families, and their communities, please join us. 


Women and gender diverse people experiencing gender-based violence, intimate partner, domestic or sexualized violence can receive support from BWSS by calling the 24/7 crisis line at: 604-687-1867, or toll free: 1-855-687-1868.

In solidarity,

Leslie Varley, Executive Director
BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres

Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director
Battered Women’s Support Services

Gathering Our Voices 2023: Sold Out in 3 Minutes!

October 17, 2022  

Gathering Our Voices 2023: Sold Out in 3 Minutes! 

Victoria, British Columbia – October 17, 2022 – The annual Gathering Our Voices (GOV) Indigenous Youth Leadership Training event has sold out! Tickets for the event sold out within 3 minutes of opening registration. Thank you to everyone who registered!

If you didn’t get a chance to register, there is still time to add your name to the waitlist. There will be a limited amount of tickets released in the coming weeks as we confirm participant attendance. Visit to add your name to the waitlist.

Gathering Our Voices will take place from March 22 to 25, 2023 on the traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations in the City of Vancouver. The venue for the event is the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and Hyatt Regency Vancouver. Visit for more information.

This is the first time since 2019 that the event is taking place. The annual event was cancelled in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is still time to sponsor! Gathering Our Voices is an event that receives nationwide attendance, and this is a major opportunity for your organization to invest in Indigenous youth. For more information on sponsorship, visit:

Follow the Gathering Our Voices team on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. Also, add you name to the GOV newsletter for the latest updates.

BC Friendship Centres are Indigenous-led, social service organizations that provide culturally-relevant programs and services for Indigenous peoples living in urban areas and away from home. Indigenous youth are an integral part of the Friendship Centre Movement, preserving traditional knowledge and leading positive change with the vision for an equitable, vibrant society for all. GOV helps Indigenous youth access invaluable tools, resources, and partnerships to further their success.

For questions about Gathering Our Voices 2023, please contact:

For media and event sponsorship inquiries, please contact:

To learn more about Gathering Our Voices, please visit:

The 1,000 Step Challenge: ‘Walk a week’ in the life of someone with mobility challenges

From November 6 to 12, we challenge you to walk ONLY 1,000 steps a day to help recognize the barriers faced by millions of Canadians who have a mobility disability.

Imagine a daily limit of 1,000 steps or less to get to work, the grocery store, a doctor’s appointment, or a social event – how would this impact your life?
1 in 5 Canadians–and 1 in 3 Indigenous people–identify as having a disability. Mobility-specific disabilities range from being almost fully able-bodied, to partial mobility, to being immobile without the use of mobility aids.   
Often, health and wellness advocates define a healthy person as someone who walks 10,000 steps a day–meanwhile, municipalities continue to overlook accessibility rights within their jurisdictions.  
The inaugural 1,000 Step Challenge will help to raise awareness for the issues faced by those with mobility disabilities by drawing our attention to the accessibility of our daily routines.

Get involved:

Join the challenge

Sign up at For one week, challenge yourself to complete your daily activities in only 1,000 steps, and consider the obstacles you face. Use the step log to track your daily step count.

Make a pledge

For those who are financially able–pledge to donate 1 cent for every step over 1,000 to a local non-profit that supports people with disabilities. 
A monetary donation is one way to support initiatives working towards accessibility and inclusion. You can also offer support through volunteer work and advocacy.

Track your progress

Review your step count each day and see how you can cut steps down without compromising your standard of living. Can you? If not, how come? 

Start a conversation

Share your reflections with your friends, family, and coworkers to start a conversation about how our communities could be more accessible and inclusive of people with mobility challenges. Share your story with us for a chance to win prizes!
Contact your local Member of Parliament/Member of Legislative Assembly to let them know that supporting accessibility and inclusion is important to you.
Sign up for the 1,000 Step Challenge newsletter and follow us on social media (Instagram and Facebook) to learn more about the accessibility issues that so many face, and steps you can take to address them.

Annual ‘Gathering Our Voices’ Indigenous Youth Leadership Training Event Scheduled to Return in March 2023

Media Release

B.C. – August 31, 2022 – The Gathering Our Voices (GOV): Indigenous Youth Leadership Training event brings together over 1,000 participants from across British Columbia and Canada to learn from Indigenous leaders, celebrate culture, share knowledge, and foster relationships to create positive change within the lives of Indigenous youth and their communities.
GOV 2023 is scheduled to take place on the traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations in the City of Vancouver from March 22 to March 25, 2023. Registration for the event will open at 10:00am PST on October 17, 2022.   
GOV is co-hosted by the Provincial Aboriginal Youth Council (PAYC) and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC). The 18th annual GOV event was cancelled in March 2020, just days before it was set to take place, due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event organizers made the decision to postpone GOV until it could return safely.
“Indigenous-led initiatives are the most effective at reaching Indigenous youth,” said Leslie Varley, Executive Director of the BCAAFC. “We know that Gathering Our Voices has a long-lasting, positive impact on youth and their communities, with many youth telling us that their experiences at GOV profoundly influenced their path in life.”
BC Friendship Centres are Indigenous-led, social service organizations that provide culturally-relevant programs and services for Indigenous peoples living in urban areas and away from home. Indigenous youth are an integral part of the Friendship Centre Movement, preserving traditional knowledge and leading positive change with the vision for an equitable, vibrant society for all. GOV helps Indigenous youth access invaluable tools, resources, and partnerships to further their success.
GOV takes place over four consecutive days and includes keynote speakers, workshops, entertainment, career and education exhibitors, and an artisan marketplace. Applications are now open for individuals, groups, and organizations interested in collaborating with the 2023 event to be held in March.
For media and event sponsorship inquiries, please contact:
To learn more about Gathering Our Voices, please visit:

Custom MBA in Indigenous Reconciliation will support safer access to community social services

The BCAAFC is proud to collaborate with our partners at UVic to co-develop a custom MBA in Indigenous Reconciliation to support safer access to community social services for Indigenous people.  

UVic has demonstrated a commitment to providing culturally relevant education and training opportunities through our collaborative work on the 3C Challenge, an entrepreneurship program that provided 700 Indigenous youth across the province with training and mentorship to start their own small businesses from 2019 to 2021.  

The custom designed MBA program will also build off the success of the BCAAFC Management Training Academy, delivered in partnership with the UVic Peter B. Gustavon School of Business from 2019 to 2020. The Academy covered topics requested by Friendship Centre staff to increase capacity in their Centres. The training content and format was highly regarded by the 20 Friendship Centre staff who graduated from the Academy, and all expressed a desire for future training opportunities.  

The Friendship Centre Movement has over 60 years of experience delivering culturally safe social services for Indigenous people.  

Feedback from BC Friendship Centre Membership and the Social Services Sector Roundtable has been clear:  

  • We need to increase our capacity within the non-profit sector. 
  • We need to succession plan for new leadership when our leaders retire.
  • We need education and training opportunities relevant and specific to our sector’s needs
  • We must collaborate to lead reconciliation among the non-profit sector organizations, Indigenous and mainstream. 

The custom MBA program addresses these needs and is an important step towards safer access to community social services for Indigenous people.  


New Report Highlights Increased Violence Against Indigenous Women and Gender Diverse People During COVID-19 Pandemic

British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) with Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS)

July 13, 2022Vancouver, B.C. – Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh) – The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and Battered Women’s Support Services, joined by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the Prince George Sexual Assault Centre, released a year-long research project: “The Road to Safety: Indigenous Survivors in BC Speak Out against Intimate Partner Violence during the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

In partnership with the University of Victoria, these leading Indigenous and anti-violence organizations in B.C. undertook a research project involving surveys and first-hand interviews with Indigenous women and gender diverse people across the province to understand the experiences of intimate partner violence that Indigenous women and gender diverse people are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the key findings of “The Road to Safety” include:

  • Pressures placed by the pandemic increased the frequency and severity of intimate partner violence experienced by Indigenous women and gender diverse people. 85% of survey respondents reported an onset of intimate partner violence during the pandemic, and 77% of survey respondents reported that they experienced an increase in intimate partner violence during the pandemic.
  • 67% of survey respondents faced challenges in accessing services during the pandemic, with 30% indicating that essential support services shut down. Growing waitlists to access services, inadequate access to transport and childcare, quarantine and isolation, racism and discrimination, and the involvement of MCFD and/or law enforcement agencies also prevented many Indigenous survivors from accessing anti-violence support services and safety.
  • 47% of survey respondents did not have access to an Indigenous-run transition home or safe house with culturally safe and relevant supports and services.

According to Leslie Varley, Executive Director of BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, “Overall, our findings indicate systemic challenges of access to justice and safety for Indigenous women and gender diverse people. Indigenous women reported widespread racism; fear of child apprehension and police when reporting violence; lack of safe housing when fleeing violence; and inadequate anti-violence services. Most government funding to address violence against Indigenous women is not in the hands of Indigenous organizations. Indigenous communities must receive funding to establish and operate programs ourselves, such as Indigenous-run 24/7 crisis support for Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse people across B.C.”

States Summer Rain, BWSS’s Manager of Direct Services & Indigenous Women’s Program: “In 2022 alone, Tatyanna Harrison, Alysia Strongarm, Noelle ‘Elli’ O’Soup, Keara Joe, Carmelita Abraham, and Chelsea Poorman have all gone missing or died under suspicious circumstances in B.C.

Indigenous women and girls are being hunted down like prey because perpetrators know they can get away with sexist, colonial violence against us. Police and child services agencies perpetuate the violence, white Canadian men rip down posters of MMIWG, and there is glacial inaction by all levels of government to the Calls for Justice by the National MMIWG2S Inquiry. This is an urgent state of crisis, and we will continue to take action until the violence ends.”


Leslie Varley, BCAAFC Executive Director: 250-893-0494

Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS Executive Director: 604-808-0507

Women and gender diverse people experiencing gender-based violence and intimate partner violence can receive support from BWSS by calling the 24/7 crisis line at: 604-687-1867, or toll free at: 1-855-687-1868. The crisis line can also be reached by text at: 604-652-1867.