Our Dreams Matter Walk highlights inequality aboriginal chlidren face everyday
Reported by Kelly Malone
CJME News Talk 980
A group in Saskatoon joined communities across Canada to bring awareness to the inequality that aboriginal children face everyday.
The 'Our Dreams Matter Too' walk and letter writing campaign was started in 2012 by the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society and has since grown to over 35 communities and 5,000 walkers.
"We are so happy that all the people are here, those that are supporting in Prince Albert ... and Regina. Also on our First Nations communities there are walks going on today in Saskatchewan and this region and also around Canada," said Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations First Vice-Chief Kimberly Jonathan.
"It's really exciting because it shows the importance of the equality we are seeking."
The walk highlights three important campaigns. The first is 'Shannen's Dream' named after student and youth education advocate Shannen Koostachin from the Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario. She was killed in a car accident in 2010 at 15 years old while on her way to school but her dream of safe schools with culturally based education for First Nations children and youth continues on through the campaign.
The second is 'Jordan's Principle' named after Jordan River Anderson from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba. He was born with complex medical needs but because of payment disputes between the federal and provincial government Jordan spent more than two years unnecessarily in hospital. He died in hospital at the age of five without spending a day in his family home. Jordan's Principle calls on the government of first contact to pay for the services and seek reimbursement later.
The third is the 'I am a Witness' campaign which invites everyone to follow the Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations human rights complaint against the federal government. The complaint alleges Canada’s failure to provide equitable and culturally based child welfare services to First Nations children on-reserve is discrimination on the basis of race and ethnic origin.
Jonathan said on top of bringing awareness to the three campaigns the date also reminds First Nations and non-First Nations people about the country's history.
"This is the day that marks the anniversary of the Prime Minister's apology for residential schools. We must remember those children who attended these schools with no choice of their own," she said. "Residential schools is not just a word. Residential schools have many effects, hurts, and abuses spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally."
Jonathan said aboriginal-settler history in Canada has led to many gaps which need to be dealt with in order to provide equal opportunity especially for First Nations children.
"At this moment our First Nations children receive less funding in areas such as education, health, and child welfare. Two-thirds of our First Nations children are living in poverty right now and this is unacceptable," she said.
To provide a good future for children Jonathan said funding gaps need to be filled and First Nations needs have to be recognized. She said they also require more support from society.
"Growing up in an indigenous community being told by others inadvertently and myself understanding that I wasn't supposed to get a post secondary education, I wasn't supposed to flourish," Jonathan said of her own experiences.
"There's certain people that are gifted to go to university and it wasn't going to be me. How do we affect that change in that spirit inside letting those little girls and baby boys, matriarchs in training and little warriors, that they are brilliant, that they have everything that it takes within them to be educated."
Jonathan said that with more people and campaigns bringing awareness it's important to educate everyone about the inequalities so that the whole country can begin to move forward.
"We want to effect change ... so we can fix it collectively. It's our elders, it's our ways of being, our values, combined with government, combined with First Nations and non-First Nations together," she said.
"We all got into this situation together we all need to focus on opportunities, ways, education, and understanding to get out of it."