In January the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled the Canadian government was discriminating against 163,000 First Nations children on reserves by spending far less on social services than they spend off reserve. In honour of National Aboriginal Day we present tips on what you can do to help. By Stephanie Bailey.
  1. Why was there a human rights complaint against the Canadian government?
    Turns out there are some pretty stark numbers when you look at the conditions that First Nations children are living in right now, says Cindy Blackstock, one of the crusaders behind this historic case.
  2. Between 1989 and 2012, First Nations children spent 66 million nights of their childhood away from their families.
  3. The federal government, responsible for providing social services on reserves, spends 20 to 30 per cent less on First Nations children compared to what provincial governments provide to children off reserve.
  4. First Nations children are 12 times more likely than other children to end up in foster care due to lack of family support services and prevention programs.
  5. There were three times the number of First Nations children in child welfare care in 2008 than during the worst period of residential schools.
  6. It took nine years to get this far
    It was back in 2007 that Blackstock and her colleagues at the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations filed the human rights complaint against the federal government’s treatment of children and families on reserves.
  7. Blackstock never wavered
    “I just realized that it’s my job as an adult to stand up for kids,” she says. “And giving up wasn’t an option.”
  8. … because it was a long and complex case
    “No path toward justice — particularly with something like this, where racism has been so embedded in our nation for so long — has ever been trodden by just one person,” says Blackstock, an associate professor at UAlberta when the ruling came down.
  9. And the fight is still going on
    On April 26, the tribunal issued an updated order asking for a clear action plan. The government has since agreed to address gaps to ensure equal access to health care for First Nations children, but it remains to be seen how individual cases will be handled.
  10. So what can you do?
    Blackstock suggests a few things you can do to support the rights of First Nations children and ensure the tribunal’s ruling is implemented to the fullest extent.
  11. Stay informed
    Sign up to be a “witness” to this historic case as it continues to unfold. Follow @Caringsociety on Twitter or visit I am a witness for more information.
  12. Show some support
    Participate in one of two annual events to support First Nations children’s rights: Have a Heart Day (Feb. 14) and Our Dreams Matter Too (June 11).
  13. Honour the history
    Plant a “Heart Garden” in your local community this summer as part of Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams for residential school survivors and their families.
  14. Recognize an advocate
    Nominate a youth or adult for the Peter Henderson Bryce Awards, which recognize advocacy work done on behalf of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children. Nominations for the youth award will open in fall 2016.