Bear Witness Day is a day both to show support for First Nations youth and to call on the federal government to address the longstanding discrimination faced by First Nations children.
While PSAC welcomes the commitments made in the 2021 budget, more federal funding is needed to close the socio-economic gap faced by Indigenous Peoples in Canada. First Nations children are frequently left waiting for services or worse yet, denied services that are available to other children. This includes adequate education, healthcare, childcare, recreation, culture and language services.
PSAC has been working to protect and defend the rights of all Indigenous Peoples in Canada for decades. They deserve full human rights, fundamental freedoms, and social infrastructure in their communities. The union represents many Indigenous members, including workers on First Nations reserves. At our last Triennial convention, delegates unanimously passed a resolution urging the union to support Bear Witness Day.
Bear Witness Day Background
On May 10, 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal directed the federal government to fully implement Jordan’s Principle, marking it as Bear Witness Day.
Jordan River Anderson was born in Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba with complex medical needs. He was placed in hospital in Winnipeg where he needlessly spent years waiting for the federal and provincial governments to decide who would pay for his home care. He died in hospital when he was five years old, having never spent a day in his family’s home. Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society have worked tirelessly to ensure that this would never happen to another Indigenous child.
The pandemic has further exposed the many systemic inequalities experienced by First Nations people. The situation for First Nations children is now even more dire. In January 2021, data showed that the rate of reported cases of COVID-19 in First Nations living on reserve was 40 per cent higher than the rate in the general population. The virus has also worsened the mental health crisis among First Nations youth.
This year, it is even more important to support First Nations communities as many struggle to recover from the pandemic and continue to face inadequate levels of funding for social services.
Show your support for First Nations children on May 10th – Bear Witness Day:
- Take part in the online screening of Spirit Bear and Children Make History.
- Hang out with your bears or favorite stuffed animal at home. Ask loved ones in your home to participate too. You can let your neighbors know that you are participating in Bear Witness Day by placing your teddy bear or a drawing of a bear in your window.
- Host an online teddy bear tea party or bear birthday party to honor Jordan River Anderson and to learn about Jordan’s Principle .
- Spread the word and post photos on social media using the hashtags #JordansPrinciple and #BearWitnessDay
- Learn about the importance of Jordan’s Principle by reading Spirit Bear’s Guide to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action .
- Learn more about Spirit Bear and Jordan’s Principle by downloading and reading Spirit Bear and Children Make History .
- Watch the documentary Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger to learn more about Jordan’s Principle. This documentary is available to watch for free through the National Film Board.
This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.