After creating a lot of quiet social action locally, the group producing Stolen Hearts, a film project about babies removed at birth from their Cowichan Valley mothers, is now nearly ready to move onto the next stage of the project’s development.
Stolen Hearts tells a difficult story. The goal was to give a voice to the many people who are living with such an experience.
The Stolen Hearts website puts the problem baldly.
"When newborns are removed from their mothers by child protection agencies, there are serious negative consequences for the mother, her baby, her family and the community. This disproportionately affects First Nations women in the Cowichan Valley of British Columbia.
"Women whose babies are removed often struggle with a combination of poverty, homelessness, violence and addictions. The removal of children has been linked to suicide by parents. Front line workers struggle to make decisions for the safety of children and families but a lack of support and resources results in too many removals."
Project producer Patricia Dawn said they’ve been meeting with a group of aboriginal women at the Matraea Centre.
"It’s been awesome," she said.
"It’s social action done through documentary filmmaking."
The centre has given them the space to gather, and they’ve been working on support and advocacy education, meeting once a week on Mondays.
The Cowichan Valley Health Network gave them seed funding of $2,000. They hope to turn the work into a non-profit.
Next up is moving ahead with Stolen Hearts, the documentary film.
"We’ve got experts lined up and we’re looking at doing an online crowd-funding campaign," said Dawn.
The group will also be hosting a fundraiser at the Firehouse Wine Bar on Dec. 29 starting at 7 p.m. The proceeds will go towards paying for the space they’re using. Entry is $20 each and you’ll get a chance to hear Dawn and fellow filmmaker Nick Versteeg.
In the documentary, aboriginal women share their experiences.
When the perspectives of medical professionals, front line agencies, and local social workers are added in, the film shines a light in a dark corner of the Valley’s history.
The plan is also to present alternatives being used in other communities that are showing high rates of success for mothers to keep their children, said Dawn.