A day to recognize the fundamental rights of all Indigenous children to have equitable access to government services will be held across Canada on Tuesday.
“There is much work to be done by Canada to end ongoing inequities in services for First Nations children, youth, and families,” First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada (The Caring Society) executive director Cindy Blackstock said.
“There are solutions, and so public awareness and pressure are needed to ensure the federal government ends this discrimination.”
In a media release, The Caring Society announced they will recognize Bear Witness Day nationally on Tuesday, a day held annually on May 10, to raise awareness about Jordan’s Principle.
Jordan's Principle, which the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in 2016 must be implemented across Canada, is a principle used in public policy and administration to ensure First Nations children living on and off reserve have equitable access to all government-funded public services, including services in education and health care.
The principle also specifies that First Nations children should never be denied access to public services if different levels of government can’t agree on who should be paying for those services.
The Caring Society is now asking all Canadian to help to raise awareness on Tuesday, by learning about Jordan’s Principle and sharing information with family and friends, and they are also asking Canadians to post photos with teddy bears on social media with the hashtag #JordansPrinciple and #BearWitnessDay.
Jordan’s Principle is named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations child from the Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, who was born with complex medical needs.
According to The Caring Society, Jordan died in the hospital at the age of five “while the provincial and federal governments argued over who should pay for his at-home care, care that would have been paid for immediately had Jordan not been First Nations.”
Following his death, and a nine-year legal case, the federal government was ordered by the tribunal to fully implement Jordan’s Principle across the country on May 10, 2016, and every year May 10 is now officially recognized as Bear Witness Day.
“Each year on May 10, we share Jordan’s story and encourage people in Canada to show their support and bear witness to ensure Jordan’s Principle is fully implemented,” Blackstock said.
“Bear Witness Day provides us with an opportunity to educate Canadians on the inequities experienced by First Nations children, and it helps us ensure that, moving forward, these children have timely access to the public services they need.”
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun