When presented with facts such as one in three will not complete high school, 45% of homes are in need of major repairs and 22% of youth commit suicide, can we really call
Canada the “True North Strong and Free”? These statistics belong to the
Aboriginal peoples of Canada who have called this country home for thousands of
years, yet now they find themselves living here in third world conditions.
When I hear the term Aboriginal, one of the first things that comes to mind is a reserve.
However, just like we have packed up our farming lifestyle and moved to booming
metropolises, 7 out of 10 Aboriginals now live off-reserve. In fact, one
third of these people live in major cities. This means that while modernizing,
Aboriginals are faced with the challenge of preserving their rich culture and
These rights go beyond which species of fish they are allowed to take or the taxes that they pay. These are rights of basic survival outlined not only by the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but by common sense. These are
rights that allow a child to live in a safe home and look forward to a bright
future. These are rights that provide adequate health care to all.
These are rights that ensure that there are no minorities in an equal
country. These are also rights that a government is responsible for
maintaining, regardless of any issues pertaining to Aboriginal status.
Now you may be asking yourself what is causing this problem when the First Nations Peoples of Canada are allotted many grants and rights from our government. For example, the Canadian Government is responsible for maintaining housing on reserves. Arguably they try, but just like when we send aid to another country, the money doesn’t always go to the source we had intended. Unfortunately, many foreign government officials keep this money for personal benefit as opposed to for their people, not unlike some First Nations tribe leaders.
Aboriginals are moving off reserves, and this presents itself as
a challenge to the Canadian government. Should these people still be
entitled to their tax benefits and extra rights seeing as they remain bound to
the Indian Act, or should the government take these advantages away from those
leading an off-reserve life? These are both scenarios that the Canadian
Government and Aboriginal Peoples need to sort out. In the meantime, nobody
should have to suffer the way that the Aboriginal Peoples are.
One great thing being done to solve this issue in urban settings is the development of
Aboriginal community centers. These centers provide a place for
metropolitan Aboriginals to indulge in their rich culture, interact with
others, and eliminate Aboriginal poverty. Centers like this are found all
throughout Toronto and welcome donations, as well as volunteers. This
past year, Free the Children at N. T. has been in contact with one particular
Aboriginal community centre called Native Child and Family Services.
Located on College Street, just west of Yonge, this centre provides services targeting
many of the issues that Natives face in today’s society. From aid
regarding child abuse to addiction among all ages, this centre ties in fun and
important cultural activities that can be attended by anybody.
So whether it’s by completing your 40 hours at an Aboriginal community centre or coming out to Free the Children on Thursdays at lunch in room 226, get started so that Canada truly can become “The True North, strong and FREE!”