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Toronto – June 11, 2014 – On this 6th anniversary of the National Day of Reconciliation with Aboriginal communities, UFCW Canada activists in Toronto joined social justice advocates across Canada, to walk and send a message calling for an equitable future for First Nations children. National Office and Local Union activists gathered to first sign letters to Stephen Harper and MPs demanding justice be restored to First Nations Children by providing them culturally based equity. Like hundreds of other groups across the country, the activists then set out on a symbolic walk to a neighbourhood mailbox to send their letters onwards.
The walk and send-a-message initiative is an annual highlight of the Our Dreams Matter Too campaign. The campaign is led by UFCW Canada's national partner, the First Nations Children and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS), to provide First Nations children with equal opportunities to grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of their cultures. The walk coincides with the National Day of Reconciliation.
The National Day of Reconciliation commemorates the Government of Canada's 2008 official apology to First Nations people for the abuse and suffering caused by Canada's the Residential School system — a notorious system which removed Aboriginal children from their families and sent them to far away schools to specifically strip First Nations children of their heritage, and force them to assimilate into the mainstream. The apology was delivered by Stephen Harper in the House of Commons. Yet, while the Residential School system is now a thing of the past, the injustice faced by First Nations children continues, with their schools receiving less money than schools in non-Aboriginal communities. The same goes for health care and social services.
"Like other children in Canada, First Nations children have every right to a healthy school environment, safe housing, and a high quality education system," says UFCW Canada National President Paul Meinema. "Our Dreams Matter is another wake-up call to the Harper government that apologies mean nothing without action, and that the time for justice to be restored to First Nations Children is long overdue."
The Our Dreams Matter Too initiative supports three FNCFCS campaigns, including Shannen's Dream (www.shannensdream.ca) for "safe and comfy schools" and quality education; Jordan's Principle (www.jordansprinciple.ca) to ensure equitable access to all government services; and the I Am a Witness campaign (www.fnwitness.ca) to help First Nations children live safely at home.