NOELLE Bulleid posts a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper June 11

Terrace residents ask for aboriginal equality

Letters to Prime Minister urge him to improve services for aboriginal children

OUR Dreams Matter Too, a national walk and letter writing event for aboriginal equality, was held June 11 at George Little Park.

Representatives from the Northwest Social Workers Branch, Knox United Church, Kermode Friendship Centre and other local organizations walked from the park to mail letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking that he do more to help First Nations children.

Organizer Robert Hart of the Northwest Social Workers Branch explained that this is the fourth annual event in Terrace and across the country organized by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

“What we are doing is writing to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to remind him that, even though he apologized on behalf of Canada for residential schools, he never really did too much about that,” Hart explained, citing small budgets for social services.

Harper authorized residential school cash settlements, Hart said, but he didn’t recognize that settlements don’t nearly address the social damage that was done by residential schools nor the social work that has to be done.

“If Harper is going to apologize, he needs to make a social investment in [aboriginal] children,” Hart asserted.

The caring society is a national agency that is working with First Nations people to re-assert their rights and create a healthy home, education, and cultural environment. The society promoted more than 31 “Our Dreams Matter Too” walks across the country last year.

Hart’s social services experience has made him especially sensitive to the injustices he believes that the First Nations people are continuing to suffer under the Canadian government.

“To be quite honest, we have been blatantly racist,” Hart said. “The Department of Indian Affairs simply underfunds everything. Kids in B.C. do comparably well because they go to public school, but in other areas of the country where there are isolated reserves [the department] is not funding them well.”

His connection to the cause came through Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the caring society, a local woman of Gitxsan background. This prompted him to organize the walk and letter-sending event in Terrace for each of the past four years.

Hart said that he is not going to stop organizing the event in Terrace until substantial and long-term action is taken by the Canadian government to help aboriginal children.

“This is not something that we should tolerate in Canada,” Hart contended. “We will continue until the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are followed and until aboriginal kids have the same kind of opportunity as any other Canadian kid.”