Children are key to the present and future health and well-being of First Nations communities. Two new fact sheets draw attention to the context surrounding First Nations children’s rights and access to justice.
The first fact sheet, The Rights of First Nations Children in Canada, highlights the reality that First Nations children continue to experience unacceptable and disproportionate levels of risk due to a combination of historical trauma, intergenerational poverty, and discriminatory and underfunded child welfare policies. In 2012, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child chastised the Canadian government for its lack of progress in redressing a number of concerns about the welfare of First Nations children. The Committee was disturbed by removals of children from their families as a first resort in cases of neglect, financial hardship or disability, and went on to outline the following concerns for children while in the care of child welfare: inappropriate placements, poorer outcomes, abuse and neglect, inadequate preparation for life after care, caregivers with little training or preparation and, for Aboriginal children in particular, placements in homes outside their communities. As the authors argue, First Nations children and all children should have access to community-based and culturally appropriate services which will help them grow up safe, healthy, and spiritually strong and be free from abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation, and the damaging effects of neglect and caregiver substance abuse.
In the second fact sheet, Improving First Nations Children’s Health with Social Justice Education for all Children, the authors argue that social justice education holds potential for developing a more socially conscious society. Social justice education teaches children about human rights, equality, and the idea of a just and equitable society, and builds on teachable moments that address the subtle and obvious forms of discrimination, stereotyping and racism embedded in mainstream culture. As the authors point out, addressing social justice issues for First Nations children with other children is about presenting the facts and trusting that they understand what is right and wrong. Social justice education helps children to develop skills to analyze events and circumstances that have affected First Nations children and families, and to make their own informed decisions about equity and justice.