Letter: Support First Nations Children By Signing The I Am a Witness Campaign

A Message From First Peoples Studies Students

Dear Concordia Staff and Students,

We, a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous concerned students, are calling upon fellow members of the Concordia community to join the I Am a Witness campaign of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. The campaign asks people to bear witness to the federal government’s policies of racial discrimination against First Nations children.

First Nations children are six to eight times more likely to be apprehended by child welfare than non-Aboriginal children. The number of First Nations children in child welfare care today in fact exceeds the number apprehended by the state in the 1940s at the height of the residential schooling system.

First Nations children are also nearly three times more likely to live below the poverty line than non-Aboriginal children. This situation can partially be explained by the federal government’s chronic underfunding of basic public services on reserves, such as social services, health care, and education. The result is a two-tiered system where children in Canada receive different levels of care based on their ethnic and cultural background.

In 2007, the Caring Society, along with the Assembly of First Nations, filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission stating that the federal government was racially discriminating against First Nations children. In January of 2016, after the federal government had spent nearly a decade citing legal technicalities in order to deny their responsibility, they were found to be in breach of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Unfortunately, rather than finally implementing an equitable funding formula along with the other recommendations made by the Caring Society, the federal government is still spending hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting the ruling.

While the federal government has so far refused to amend the appalling inequality faced by First Nations children in Canada, the Caring Society has listed simple steps that we can all take to help change the situation. They are asking people to read about the situation on their website, to sign on as witnesses, and to spread the word through social media.

We are also encouraging you to add your name to the I Am a Witness campaign to let the federal government know that you stand in solidarity with First Nations children and families: https://fncaringsociety.com/i-am-witness. In the words of Cindy Blackstock of the Caring Society, “165,000 kids are depending on you. It’s in your hands.”