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Towards a Hopeful Future: In Conversation with Cindy Blackstock

Voice in conversation with Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada

public services (Jordan’s Principle).

Along with the summary of the TRC’s final report, I recommend that educators read the summary of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996) and a book by historian John Milloy entitled  A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986 . Milloy’s book tells the story of residential schools from the perspective of the Government of Canada’s own documents. It dispels the myth that people of the period did not know better so could not do better, and provides an excellent basis to critically examine the contemporary relationship between First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and the federal/provincial/territorial governments.

It is vital that we equip students with skills to engage in active citizenship. That means we need to provide them with opportunities to understand contemporary injustices and give them opportunities to peacefully and respectfully engage in positive change. The Caring Society hosts a number of activities every year such as Have a Heart Day where students write letters to elected officials so that First Nations children have an equal chance to grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy and proud of who they are. Knowing is not enough and caring is not enough; we must teach children to take action.

Are there things ETFO members could be doing to support teachers and children in First Nations schools?

Yes, bring Project of Heart to your school and get involved in Shannen’s Dream and the other campaigns at the Caring Society. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission listed child welfare, Jordan’s Principle and equity in education as its top Calls to Action so these campaigns are easy ways for students to engage with reconciliation. Also check out the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website ( http://umanitoba.ca/nctr/).

On your website you have a list of seven ways we can make a difference. Do you have anything you would add to that list when you are speaking with teachers? When you are speaking to our union?

It is critical that we emphasize that crosscutting equality is needed. Canada cannot meaningfully engage in reconciliation until it stops discriminating against First Nations children. Although the on reserve funding inequalities cited in the CHRT decision only apply to First Nations on reserve, it is also important to reach out to the Inuit and Métis communities for ideas on what can be done to support their children too.

The real hope for First Nations children does not lie with the government, it lies with caring Canadians learning about the inequalities and no longer tolerating them. That is why the work of educators is so key. Together we can raise a generation of First

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