Give native kids a chance to shine

TheStar.com – Opinion/editorial – Give native kids a chance to shine
Published On Tue Nov 24 2009

Twenty-years ago today, Canada’s politicians stood in the House of Commons and committed to ending child poverty by 2000. Nine years past that deadline, success is still nowhere in sight.

Nationally, one in 10 children is raised in poverty, according to a report being released today. In First Nations communities, that figure rises to a staggering one in four.

How can we allow this to continue?

It is shameful that in a country as well-off as Canada so many aboriginal children grow up in Third World conditions. Many live in overcrowded homes where the water isn’t safe to bathe in, let alone drink.

Poverty and hopelessness often take their toll on families and rob children of the chance to grow up happy and healthy.

And when children are taken from those dilapidated homes for their own safety, even the task is assumed by underfunded children’s aid societies operating with proportionately less resources than non-native agencies have.

Deeply troubling, then, is the postponement of a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal probe into Ottawa’s funding of aboriginal child welfare. The tribunal was to resume on Nov. 16. But the chair, newly appointed by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, has put it on hold for two months to narrow the focus of the probe.

Why would the tribunal want to do that? Surely what we need is a broad look at the problems to help arrive at the best solutions.
Last year, Harper apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for the “sad chapter in our history,” when we tore aboriginal children from their homes and placed them in residential schools. Unfortunately, we do not seem to have learned much.

An apology for past wrongs is one thing, but shouldn’t we also ensure that today’s aboriginal children get the chance to grow up happy and healthy? There is ample evidence that many of them do not.

A good place to begin would be to get the human rights tribunal back on track and in search of solutions to this problem.

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