Equality for Valentine’s Day

Dalhousie students make cards to support First Nations kids

By: JILLIAN MORGAN
@jilliancmorgan

The federal government won’t receive much love on Valentine’s Day.

Instead, with the help of the Dalhousie School of Social Work Student Group in Halifax, it will be flooded with Valentine’s cards that demand equality for First Nations children.

“A lot of people are really passionate about it,” said Alyssa Buchanan, co-president of the student group. “It’s really easy to stop people and say, ‘do you want to make a Valentine to support First Nations kids?’ Not many people are going to say no to that.”

The event was part of Have a Heart Day, an annual youth-led campaign started by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, a non-profit organization based in Ottawa which provides support for First Nations youth, children and families.

Participants across Canada will send cards to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of parliament that request First Nations children have access to a safe home, health care and education. A celebration on Parliament Hill also takes place on Feb. 10.

“The idea with (Valentine’s cards) is it’s sharing your love,” says Buchanan. “People really enjoy making arts and crafts.”

This is the second year the student group has hosted the event.

Buchanan said last year the group had a little under 100 Valentine’s cards.

This year participants made more than 200.

“We decided we would do it again but bigger … and we wanted to reach Dalhousie and the Halifax community at large,” says Buchanan.

Emma Foran and Katie Frederickson were two students who came to the Dalhousie Student Union Building to make a card.

First Nations children “are the youth and we should help all youth across Canada,” said Foran.

Foran is a contemporary issues and indigenous studies student. Her card said: “Have a heart for the love.”

Frederickson said Valentine’s cards are an effective way of sending a message to the federal government.

Her card read: “Dear Mr. Prime Minister, please don’t appeal the ruling.” In January 2016, nine years after the complaint was filed, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled the federal government had discriminated against First Nations children with regards to funding services.

But the ruling can still be appealed.

“It’s a day of love and I feel like it really drives the point home. If you’re going to appeal a ruling that’s hurting all these kids … the worst day to do it on a day dedicated to love,” said Frederickson.

Buchanan said the Dalhousie School of Social Work Student Group collaborated with the Native Student Association and the Canadian Studies Student Association to gather Valentines. Once all the cards are complete, the plan is to mail them to Ottawa, to be received in time for Valentine’s Day.

The Assembly of First Nations, the Canadian Paediatric Society and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund Canada released a report in 2015 which found the government had not followed through on Jordan’s Principle – a child-first principle adopted in 2007 which calls for the government of first-contact to pay for services for First Nations children and seek reimbursement later.

The report states the federal government said it didn’t receive any cases of Jordan’s Principle cases in Canada, but the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society found federal documentation of 27 cases.

“The inequities that (First Nation’s children) face, especially in accessing social services that are available to non-indigenous children living off a reserve is kind of astronomical,” said Buchanan. “It’s hugely disproportionate.”

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