Former prime minister Paul Martin is hoping to break down the barriers confronting many young aboriginals in Canada, by educating students across the country about native peoples' culture, history, experiences, and rights.
Calling it "the single most important moral issue" in Canada, Martin says many are unaware of the challenges faced by Aboriginal Canadians, especially the youth, despite the fact that they are youngest and fastest growing population in the country.
"Canadians, we live in silos. We really are not aware of what is going on," Martin told CTV's Canada AM on Monday.
According to the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI), a registered charity established in 2008 and headed by Martin, compared with the rest of the population, Aboriginal Canadians have lower education levels and lower standards of living.
"Aboriginal Canadians are a substantial part of our future, and yet they are allowed to live in this kind of disparity," Martin said.
To bring more awareness to the issue, Martin on Monday launched the latest edition of the annual "We Stand Together" campaign. The collaboration between MAEI and Free the Children, now in its fourth year, runs until March 7, 2014 and aims to teach school-aged children about Aboriginal culture and history.
"Those students, they just grab on to it….They know, you know, that the old thing of cowboys and indians, that's an old history that never really happened. They want to know the reality and the teachers make it happen."
Martin says in the last four years, more than 1,000 schools have participated in the program.
To learn more about the "We Stand Together," visit the campaign’s website.