British Columbia

Ending Violence B.C. recognizes Squamish Nation woman's community work

A residential school survivor will be recognized for her community work.

Doris Paul is a victim specialist who helps aid in domestic abuse cases

Doris Paul - Xele'milh - of the Squamish Nation will be honoured by Ending Violence B.C. for her community work. (CBC)

A residential school survivor who transformed her life is being recognized for her work helping First Nations families struggling with domestic violence.

Doris Paul - Xele'milh - of the Squamish Nation is being honoured by Ending Violence B.C. with the group's Be More Than A Bystander award. 

Paul works with the North Vancouver RCMP and West Vancouver Police as the Aboriginal Victim Specialist Worker for the Domestic Violence Unit, helping workers approach sensitive scenarios with more care.

Her work started after she acknowledged her own struggle with alcohol abuse.

"Parties were kind of rampant throughout the reservations and so for me it was a learned behaviour," Xele'milh told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn. 

After a physical fight at a house party one night, which her two young daughters were present for,

She says she was forced to face the realities of how her drinking affected her family after she got in a fight at party in front of her two young daughters. 

"I knew that lifestyle affected them and I didn't have enough parent skills to realize that to begin with, but I struggled through 30 days of sobriety and realized I could do it," Xele'milh said.

Police services on reserve

She says a lack of services off of the reserve made her recovery journey difficult. 

In 2005, she made an appointment with the top RCMP detachment officer in North Vancouver at the time to see why they weren't being provided with the same level of service.

"They believed that we didn't pay taxes so we couldn't have the services," she said.

"I didn't understand what that meant, but I found out later that we do pay for the police services, water taxes, and garbage removal. I went back for a second meeting to say yes we do, we do pay taxes and we do deserve that service."

Since then Xele'milh has been educating law enforcement on the realities of the largely damaged relationship between police and First Nations communities.

Culturally sensitive sentencing 

The biggest change she's seen is the culturally aware sentencing demonstrated by its judges.

"One example is the judge asked the (accused) to go fish 10 fish and bring one to each elder, and listen to a story. That was the sentence."

She followed this man and watched from a distance up the river as he caught and packaged fish, then waited as he went into the home of an elder and emerged over an hour later.

"When he came back to the courts he said that was the most beautiful experience that he's ever had, because he said … he found a grandma. He had lost his grandma and his grandpa so there was a relationship built there."      

The fear and apprehension surrounding cultural practices is still deeply felt by residential school survivors who experienced extreme punishment for speaking their language or practicing traditional acts, she said.

"There's still many there that have the fear of what happened historically of not being able to practice," a fact that drives Xele'milh to protect and encourage the next generation, and her children, to embrace their cultural heritage and work to heal the deep wounds left by generations of oppression.

"I'm here to stand up and protect my children … we go into our ceremonies we refer to our children as our future leaders, so I felt like I needed to give them a chance to be a leader."

Xele'milh will be presented the Be More Than A Bystander award on Thursday morning by the B.C. Lions and Ending Violence B.C.

To hear the full interview with Xele'milh Doris Paul  listen to media below:

With files from the CBC's On The Coast