MEDIA RELEASE: Canada Fails Indigenous Children Says Joint Report to United Nations Committee by Caring Society and KAIROS
For Immediate Release
Monday, October 24, 2011
(Ottawa) Indigenous children face neglect, abuse and sometimes death as a result of Canada’s failure to live up to its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
This is one of the findings in a joint report by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (Caring Society) and KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives (KAIROS) in their submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
The report, entitled Honouring the Children was released today at a news conference in advance of the UNCRC’s upcoming review of how well Canada is living up to the UN Convention. When it comes to Indigenous children, Canada deserves a failing grade the report proves.
“Many Indigenous children do not have the basic necessities of life,” said Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the Caring Society. “Their communities lack access to clean water or safe, affordable housing. And some are educated in deplorable conditions.”
The report says some First Nations schools are contaminated by black mould and not properly heated. One school was closed due to an infestation of snakes. Another is closed an average of 22 days each year due to a lack of drinking water.
“These shocking conditions are due to historic and ongoing policies and practices that contradict Indigenous holistic traditions and fail to uphold Indigenous peoples’ rights,” said Ed Bianchi, KAIROS’ Indigenous Rights Program Coordinator.
Former Senator the Honourable Landon Pearson, a longtime advocate on the rights of the child and current Caring Society board member, said: “These policies discriminate against First Nations, Inuit and Metis families and children and touch on all aspects of an Indigenous child’s life. Children are affected by violence against Indigenous women and unfair and unjust land rights negotiations.”
Drawing on official federal government documents, and illustrated with evocative words and images of and by Indigenous and non-Indigenous children, the report describes how current federal policies and practices are compounding historic injustices.
“We would like to ask the federal government why there are no schools in many of our communities and why so many of our schools are in such poor conditions,” said Caitlin Tolley, an Indigenous youth leader and First Nation Algonquin from the community of Kitigan-Zibi adjacent to Maniwaki, Quebec. “We want to know why the level of funding we receive for education is less compared to communities in other parts of Canada.”
Vernie Yocogan-Diano, an Indigenous leader and human rights activist from the Cordillera region of the Philippines who is in Canada as part of KAIROS’ Living Courage Tour, which brings women from overseas conflict zones together with Indigenous and migrant women in Canada , said that young people in the Philippines face similar conditions and also reprisals if they speak out.
“What is worse is when students and youth try to assert their rights for better quality education they are targeted and become victims of political repression, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, she said.
Honouring the Children elaborates on Shannen’s Dream campaign for “safe, comfy and equitable schools” inspired by 13 year old Shannen Koostachin who travelled to Ottawa to ask then Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl for a new school in Attawapiskat First Nation. Students have been attending school in fire trap, mice infested, freezing, rundown portables after their original school was condemned because the land it’s built on is contaminated by 50,000 litres of diesel fuel. For ten years nothing has changed. Shannen was still hoping for better news when she died in a car accident at the age of 15 (http://www.fncfcs.com/shannensdream/).
The report also demonstrates how Canada is failing to uphold Jordan’s Principle named after Jordan River Anderson from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba who had to spend the first two years of his life in hospital due to complex medical needs. When he was ready go home, home care services were available, but the federal and provincial government could not agree on who should pay. Tragically, Jordan died before his 5th birthday, never having known anywhere but the inside of a hospital. His grief stricken family pushed for legistlation to ensure that this would never happen again. Jordan’s Principle (http://www.fncfcs.com/jordans-principle) passed in 2007, but remains unimplemented by the majority of Canada’s provinces and territories. The federal government is now trying to narrow its scope.
Honouring the Children provides 13 key recommendations on how to begin to address the injustices faced by Indigenous children in Canada. Fundamental to these recommendations is that the government works in meaningful collaboration with Indigenous peoples. Read the report at http://www.kairoscanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/DR-IR-11-10-HonouringTheChildren.pdf
Communications Program Coordinator
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
(416) 463 5312, ext. 223