April 18, 2016
ANDRÉA LEDDING
PRAIRIE MESSENGER

SASKATOON - Canadians and First Nations people must exert pressure on governments to respect the rights of Aboriginal children, says native rights activist Cindy Blackstock.

"Nobody else has to fight from childhood to be treated equally by the government," said Blackstock told the Think Indigenous Youth Conference in Saskatoon March 18.

In January, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in favour of Blackstock's contention that the federal government's longstanding underfunding of child and family services on reserves is a form of racial discrimination.

Displaying information and documents from the recent court case, Blackstock explained that governments don't create change, they respond to it. "When they don't see all of us standing up against it, it makes it that much harder.

"Kids understand equality, they understand love, and they understand fairness. Kids are not just learners, they're teachers," she continued.

Children are the hope and the future; they need to be supported in the face of historic and contemporary injustice, Blackstock said.

"It's just as vital to teach non-Aboriginal kids about this as it is the First Nations, Métis and Inuit kids," she said.

Curtis Jo Miller came from a life of abuse and foster homes into gang life and prison. He became an artist and youth worker who advocates giving responsibility to young people who are having hard times in school.

"I've been really good at being bad, what about being good?" Miller asked himself at age 34.

He became sober and wanted to work with other youth at risk, emphasizing the importance of empathy and compassion. "Every person has value and every life can be turned around; it takes no more than a simple decision and the courage to come back."