Amnesty International supports Our Dreams Matter Too
By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples
A few years ago I heard a young First Nations woman describing the unsafe drinking water, the poor quality school and other conditions that she faced every day growing up in her home community. “What did we do to be treated like this?” she asked.
In most communities in Canada, government services like education, health care and family services are provided by a combination of municipal and provincial governments. However, in the case of First Nations people living on reserves these services are instead funded through the federal government.
Critically, study after study has shown that federal funding for basic services on reserves routinely falls short of what is required to provide First Nations families with access to the same quality of services-- like education and health care -- enjoyed other communities in Canada.
Here’s what the Auditor General of Canada had to say about the situation in 2011:
“The education gap between First Nations living on reserves and the general Canadian population has widened, the shortage of adequate housing on reserves has increased, comparability of child and family services is not ensured.”
It’s little wonder if some First Nations children youth feel that they’re being punished for being Indigenous.
The federal government's failure to ensure adequate services for families on First Nations reserves is a fundamentally unfair situation that has terrible consequences for this generation of First Nations youth. But things don’t have to be this way. Not if Canadians demand fairness and equity for all children.
That’s why Amnesty International is supporting our Dreams Matter Too, a national initiative to raise awareness of the basic inequalities facing First Nations children. This Wednesday, June 11th, walks and rallies will be held in communities across Canada. The message is simple: First Nations children should have the chance as every other child to grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of their cultures.
Our Dreams Matter Too marks the anniversary of Canada’s apology to the survivors of Residential Schools. In that apology, the Government of Canada, on behalf of all Canadians, made the important statement, “There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again.”
Our Dreams Matter Too is an opportunity to hold the federal government to that promise.
For more information, and to find out if there's an Our Dreams Matter Too walk in your community, visit the website of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.