Kairos: Have a Heart for First Nations Kids: Putting reconciliation into action
First Nations children on reserve experience discrimination in many ways including the level of services they receive. Among these second class services are basics such as health, education and child welfare. Instead of correcting the situation so that Indigenous kids get the same start in life as other Canadians, to-date, the Government of Canada has fought tooth and nail to continue this systemic discrimination.
Thanks to a human rights complaint brought before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in 2007 by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (Caring Society) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), a light has been shone on this shameful situation. The complaint alleges that the federal government discriminates against First Nations children on the basis of race by chronically underfunding child welfare services on reserve. As a result of this underfunding, children are driven into care in record high numbers, higher than at the height of the residential school system, and are being raised away from their culture, language, family, community and territory. This is assimilation and it must end. Children have a right to grow up safely in their community, and be proud of their language and culture.
February 14, coined ‘Have a Heart Day’ by the Caring Society, is a high point in the year for showing support for these Indigenous kids who deserve much better. On this day, when we shower attention on loved ones, the Caring Society asks us to also remember the kids who are growing up far from their homes, who do not have a proper school, and who cannot access adequate health services. We can show our love and attention for them too by:
- Sending a valentine in support of Have a Heart Day to the Prime Minister or your MP;
- Joining a Have a Heart Day event somewhere near you, or hosting one of your own;
- Spreading the word through social media by using the hashtag #HaveaHeartDay.
Finally, something important we can all do is stay tuned for the Tribunal’s decision. KAIROS has been walking with the Caring Society throughout this process and we are all eagerly awaiting the ruling. If the Tribunal rules in favour of the Caring Society and AFN it will be truly historic; it will be first time in Canadian history the federal government is held accountable for its discriminatory treatment of First Nations children. It will also set an important legal precedent in other areas such as education, health, housing and clean water.
Every year of inaction is a lost year of childhood for thousands of kids. This Valentines, help make Have a Heart Day the biggest one yet, lend your voice to the call for culturally based equity for First Nations children.