When eight-year-old Angel Bonspille saw her drawing printed in the children’s book My rights and me, the first words to come to her were “oh my gosh!”
The Kanehsata’kehró:non’s colourful picture of a lacrosse game between friends is among the illustrations by 16 Indigenous children showcased in the book on the Declaration of the Rights of First Nations Children (DRFNC).
Launched on Wednesday, on the occasion of Early Childhood Week, My rights and me was created by Kebaowek First Nation author Jill Ladouceur, in collaboration with the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC).
“I was inspired to apply to write this book because I have children of my own – I’m a mom of six, and I felt that getting the message out there was important to kids of all ages,” explained the Algonquin author in a video promoting the book.
Drawing on the 16 articles of the declaration, the book is an illustrated resource that explains to First Nations children their fundamental and inherent rights in a simple but fun way.
“Writing this came naturally to me because I took what was written (in the DRFNC), and I pretended like I wanted to explain it to my own child,” explained Ladouceur.
It’s with an idea of representing these rights through images accompanying the author’s text that the FNQLHSSC invited children aged up to 17 years old to put their creativity and artistic talent to work by submitting drawings.
While what initially motivated Angel to participate was the chance to win a prize, it’s her love for crafts that ultimately compelled her to put crayon to paper last summer.
“I draw all the time!” exclaimed the Kanehsata’kehró:non, to which her mother agreed.
“I’m constantly buying markers, crayons, paper, and construction paper – everything like that for her,” said Cheryl Wenhnitanoron Beauvais-Cataford.
On the page next to Angel’s drawing of her playing a game of lacrosse is a fitting reminder of children’s right to safety.
“As a child, it is your right that your parents be with you and keep you safe in and around your home,” it reads. “Your parents teach you how to stay safe with things around you, like wearing a helmet when you ride your bike, wearing a seatbelt in the car, and not to climb on high things that you might fall from and hurt yourself with.”
Officially adopted by the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) in 2015, the DRFNC encapsulates the rights of children to a name and identity, being nurtured and protected, to benefit from their culture, and much more.
“If it’s a story, they remember it more and they’re able to ask for help if they need it and recognize if they need this help in any area that is covered in the charter of rights for children,” expressed Ladouceur, who is also an English and art teacher. “I felt really connected to the book. I was able to put my heart and passion into it.”
In the video shared by FNQLHSSC on Wednesday, AFNQL chief Ghislain Picard introduced the book, which will soon be available at the childcare centres, elementary and high schools of the 16 young artists’ communities.
“Our children deserve our attention – they represent our future,” said Picard. “The Declarations of the Rights of First Nations Children make it possible to make them a collective priority and to act to protect, support and cherish them.”
Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door