First Nation children and youth are dying senseless and needless deaths in ever increasing numbers.
The latest incident was the discovery of a 14-year-old child’s body last Thursday in a Thunder Bay river, where far too many of our peoples have died mysteriously over the past decade. We need both Ontario and Canada to act upon last year’s recommendations from the Thunder Bay Inquest into the deaths of seven First Nation youth.
Last August, our Political Confederacy sent a letter to INAC Minister Carolyn Bennett requesting that “immediate steps” be taken to implement the recommendations that fall under Canada’s responsibility. Quite simply, end the root causes of poverty and despair. Provide the necessary supports for our children to remain in their communities.
The letter stated:
“The jury recognized that First Nations children and youth require holistic support inside and outside the classroom and from an early age. First Nations children often have additional needs and challenges arising from the legacies of residential schools, government neglect, assimilation policies, and other aspects of colonialism past and present. To provide the necessary support, the jury recommended new programs to ensure that every First Nations child has comprehensive access to pre-school education (recommendation 18), cultural and traditional activities (recommendation 19), and extracurricular programs (recommendation 20). It also recommended a process to eliminate the gaps in services such as health, social services, and housing (recommendation 24). In each of these areas, the jury recommended a robust program to identify the gaps, develop targets and timelines, and publicly monitor the results (recommendation 24).”
The province is already working with us on a Strategy for a Safer Ontario. Our leaders, youth and elders have participated in roundtables held this spring. The four priority areas in regard to policing are:
1 – Enhance accountability and strengthen civilian governance of police services boards as well as ensure police oversight bodies are effective and have clear mandates.
2 – Improve interactions between police and vulnerable Ontarians, including enhancing frontline responses to those in crisis.
3 – Clarify police duties, modernize training programs and deliver services using a range of public safety personnel.
4 – Develop a provincial framework for First Nations policing to ensure equitable and culturally responsive policing for the province’s First Nations communities.
True Reconciliation requires action. We need Ontario and Canada to work with us now. Achieving prosperous First Nations communities requires investment now, to ensure a solid foundation for growth is created. This foundation includes proper infrastructure, such as clean water, healthy homes and schools. It also includes appropriate social, health and educational supports to ensure personal growth, so that our citizens are able to become who they were intended to be as First Nations people. Every child deserves the right to a prosperous future.
We extend to all levels of government — First Nations, Ontario, Canada and municipalities, in a four cornered approach, through our work as leaders, in securing a safe and secure future for our children.