Today, a greater percentage of First Nations children are being taken away from their families than at the height of the residential school era. This is happening because their families may not have the resources to meet all their needs, and because child welfare services in First Nations communities also don’t have the resources that are urgently needed to support these families.
At the heart of the problem is the fact that the federal government’s budget for children’s services in First Nations communities is at least 22% less per child than what the provincial governments dedicate for child welfare services in other communities. This is despite often greater needs and the higher costs of delivering services in small and remote First Nations communities. As a result, the removal of children from their families – something that is only supposed to happen as a last resort – has become commonplace for underfunded child welfare services that lack the resources to intervene in other ways.
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ordered the federal government to pay compensation to First Nations children, youth and families for its “willful and reckless” discriminatory practices in providing services to First Nations children and families. The federal government is seeking a judicial review before the Federal Court aimed at quashing the human rights tribunal compensation order.
On February 14th, Amnesty International is joining the First Nations’ Child and Family Caring Society for their annual Have a Heart campaign. This is a child and youth-led reconciliation event that brings together caring Canadians to help ensure First Nations children have the services they need to grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of who they are.
There are many ways you can celebrate Have a Heart Day:
- Send a Valentine’s Day card or letter supporting Have a Heart Day to the Prime Minister and your Member of Parliament.
- Host a Valentine’s Day party to raise awareness in your school or community. Choose a day leading up to Valentine’s Day that makes sense for your class or community.
- Bring reconciliation into the classroom to get your students ready. Do Project of Heart or for other great ideas, visit the Shannen’s Dream School Resources page.
- Spread the word through social media like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Use the hashtag #HaveaHeartDay and/or #JourneeAyezUnCoeur.
Explore the Have a Heart Day website to download Have a Heart Day resources!