Signs of hope for First Nations children

TheStar.com – News/parentcentral.ca – Signs of hope for First Nations children
November 23, 2009.   Laurie Monsebraaten SOCIAL JUSTICE REPORTER

From the photo, you just know the boy with the black brush-cut and the dead-serious face isn’t kidding.

“I want to be a Lego producer,” says his hand-made sign.

And why not?

Why shouldn’t First Nations children have the same chance as other children?

It’s a question Aboriginal rights activists Cindy Blackstock wants people to ask when they view her new photographic exhibit entitled Caring Across Boundaries opening today in downtown Toronto.

Curated by Blackstock and sponsored by the Atkinson Charitable Foundation, the exhibit depicts the hopes and dreams of Aboriginal people in three northern communities, including Ontario’s Attawapiskat Nation near James Bay. It runs all week in the lobby of First Canadian Place.

The exhibit forms a poignant backdrop to last week’s adjournment of a landmark Canadian Human Rights Commission Tribunal hearing into discrimination against First Nations children in the child welfare system.

The case, launched by the Assembly of First Nations and Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations, began in September and is scheduled to resume in January.

The photography exhibit is a collection of 40 images by freelance photographer Liam Sharp that is aimed at engaging First Nations and all Canadians in reconciliation to promote the health and wellbeing of children and youth, Blackstock says.

“We see these children with their dignity and their dreams to grow up to be doctors and veterinarians and helicopter pilots. They aren’t interested in growing up to be on welfare,” she says. “We see parents who really love their kids and who are doing the very best they can. But they have far fewer resources than other Canadians do.”

Blackstock hopes the exhibit will prompt people to sign up to become a “witness” for the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society at www.fnwitness.ca and help change the world for these children.”They can grow up to be cooks and veterinarians and nurses and bush pilots,” she says. “But only if we give them the same chance every other kid gets.”

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