JUSTICE FOR FIRST NATIONS KIDS: Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rules in favour of Indigenous Children in Canada

Image from Have a Heart Day 2014 on Parliament Hill, Ottawa with former NDP MP for Ottawa Paul Dewar. 

First Nations Child and Caring Family Society of Canada files complaint and wins after a long battle!

Congratulations to Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations Child and Caring Family Society of Canada. Today is an important moment as the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the Federal Government is guilty of racial discrimination against First Nations, Inuit and Métis children.

On their website, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) has provided the full document of the Tribunal’s decision.

Over and over the federal government, under former prime minister Stephen Harper, tried to stop Blackstock with Department of Justice lawyers doing all they could to have her human rights complaint dismissed.

Each attempt was defeated allowing the complaint to proceed.”  Read full article on APTN

Below is the livestream of the Press Conference following the Tribunal’s announcement with Cindy Blackstock of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations

In the fight for justice for Indigenous children Cindy Blackstock has engaged local youth. Each Valentine’s Day kids arrive on Parliament Hill to give speeches in support of their peers who have been continually denied equitable education. This popular and positive event has leveraged social media and you can find out more by following #HaveAHeartDay on twitter. You can also join this year’s gathering on Wednesday, February 10 from 10:30 – 11:15 am on Parliament Hill.

CHILDREN WHO ARE SAFE & SOUND: Independent Jewish Voices holds Vigil in Ottawa for the Children Killed in Gaza

Little Palestinian girl holds candle

Little Palestinian boys hold posters, one little boy years sunglasses and Spiderman shorts

My maternal grandmother had 5 children. Then came 12 grandchildren. Now there are 9 great-grandchildren. With the exception of my grandmother, who lived a long and healthy life into her nineties, everyone is alive and well.

On the steps of the Human Rights Monument this Friday night in Ottawa, a Palestinian matriarch, with a cane in one hand and a flag in the other, slowly walked up to position herself in front of the faces of the children that have died in the recent attacks on Gaza. She smiled at the living children who ran up and down the steps around her in preparation for the ceremony. These children – in running shoes, cute sandals, sporty sunglasses and “The Amazing SpiderMan” shorts – are safe and sound in Canada.

Old woman on steps of Human Rights Monument holds waving Palestinian flag, posters of dead children behind her Old woman on steps of Human Rights Monument holds waving Palestinian flag

This woman is probably in her seventies meaning she was born at a time when Israel had already begun its war on Palestine. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have only known the story of war and never the story of peace.

I think again of my grandmother. She never had to witness the death of one of her children or grandchildren.

Adolescent Palestinian boy at microphone surrounded by other Palestinian children holding posters with images of the children who have died

One child walked to the microphone. Stumbling on his words with the cracking voice of an adolescent boy transitioning into a young adult, he shared with the crowd that this week 9 of his extended family were killed in Gaza.

9 members wiped out. I struggle as to how to act in this moment. He can’t be more than 13. He has probably known more deaths in his family then years of his life.

I want children to be able to be just children with grandmothers who watch over them with laughter without wondering if today will be the last time they see their little ones play.

#FreeGaza #FreePalestine

For more events by Independent Jewish Voices visit their website.

WHAT ARE THE ACTIONS THAT SAY WE STAND FOR PEACE?: Standing in Solidarity with Palestinians on Eid


Little Palestinian girl rests her arms on poster with images of the children killed. The poster reads Stop the Palestinian Holocaust
Two young woman hold small girls close to them as they listen to the ceremony. Each woman and girl wears a keffiyeh
Young woman a keffiyeh hijab holds a candle and listens
Young woman sits on steps and listens, crowds surround her in the background. Young boy with keffiyeh around his neck and Nike shoes sits on the sidewalk while adults stand around him
Several children hold posters with photographs of the children who have recently died in Gaza.Two young men wearing Palestinian flags like capes walk with candles in their handsA young woman in hijab smiles at the camera while she holds a candle, people of all races surround her also holding candles.Little boy in running shoes and shorts holds a candle, he points up to an adult man above him also holding a candle
Above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

BEST WAY TO CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY: #HaveAHeart Day on Parliament Hill

Boy in snow holding poster that saves Have A Heart for first nations children

Kids standing in solidarity with First Nations, Inuit and Metis children

The best led crusade may just be a children’s crusade because today on Parliament Hill small but mighty voices were articulate in their demands for Harper to “have a heart” with regards to issues around education improvements for Aboriginal children.

Children with teachers in front of the clock tower on Parliament Hill with posters in support with First Nations children

From the voices of babes.

One wee one said “I am just in Grade 3 but I know the difference between right and wrong.” She continued by saying “Mr. Harper, you spend money on silly things like rockets that don’t fly.” Enough said.

And don’t think that these kids are buying it regarding the First Nations Education Act. They get it that a one-size-fits-all education system and dollars handed out with conditions attached doesn’t translate into equitable and culturally based education. They could probably put a lot of MPs to shame with their proper pronunciation of Anishinaabe and knowing that Turtle Island refers to the original name for the continent that the governments of Canada and America now occupy.


“Stephen Harper, we’ve got some homework for you, make our Canada a better place for FN education”

It means nothing if it’s not true.

These kids stood up under the shadow of the Parliament Buildings and spoke to the fact that the National Narrative of an inclusive society that respects human rights falls apart when you look at the Canadian government’s past and present relations with Indigenous Canada.

Kids from all backgrounds – Somali, East Asian, Palestinian, European – showed up and represented.

These kids get it. And on a cold, winter’s day it is what  warms your  heart!

#HaveAHeartDay!







“The First Nations Child & Family Caring Society stands with First Nations children, youth, and families for equal opportunities to succeed.

Using a reconciliation framework that respectfully engages First Nation and non-Aboriginal peoples, the Caring Society provides high quality resources to support First Nations communities to empower children, youth and families. The award-winning Caring Society is proud to work with our partners in Canada and around the world to promote the rights of Indigenous children, youth and families.” For more information on their services visit their website.

Follow on First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada’s Facebook page and on twitter @CaringSociety.


All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

TIME FOR RADICAL CHANGE: Sakahàn at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Group of children Tlingit / Aleut artist Nicholas Galanin (top right) with some of the kids of the Sakahàn Youth Camp.

Sowing the seeds of change in programming for youth.

All of us have a story or two about a moment that was magical and breathed life into the parts of our mind that weren’t aware that we could dream so big.

Ottawa based Anishinaabe artist Melody McKiver tells of her mother, as a teenager, meeting Daphne Odjig – one of Canada’s great artists. Her father had taken her to an exhibit in Dryden, in the mid-70s. That chance encounter, although short, was powerful and pivotal in her mother’s life because she never knew that a Native woman could aspire to what Daphne had become.

If you can’t locate yourself in the faces of the makers of culture it may be impossible for you to know that the light inside of you has the potential to shine bright. Which is why programs like Sakahàn Youth are so critical. We won’t understand the full generational impact of Sakahàn on the Canadian cultural landscape  for a long time but I don’t doubt it will be pivotal for this country.

Left to Right: Some of the members of the Junior Curator Program. Children from the Summer Camp Program all at the opening night of Nigi Mikan / I Found It: Indigenous Women’s Identity at Fall Down Gallery, Ottawa. Curated by the Junior Curators.

Sakahàn – meaning “to light [a fire]” in the language of the Algonquin peoples.

Artists working outside on rock carving with machines for cutting into stone. Tlingit / Aleut artist Nicholas Galanin and assistant working outside of the National Gallery on his piece “Nature Will Reclaim You” just one of the many outdoor works.

For Melody, also a co-organizer for Niigaan Treaty Workshops, it is the first time in her lifetime she has experienced Ottawa engaging with Aboriginal artists in such a meaningful way and she is encouraged by the positive change. The exhibit also engages the people of Ottawa as it extends out into the city in many different venues and events – inside / outside, Government institutions as well as artist-run centres, university campuses, & urban powwows. The exhibit even extends beyond the city to include Decolonize Me currently on at the Art Gallery of Windsor and shows like artist Jeff Kahm at Urban Shaman, Winnipeg.

Melody goes on to say that because of  “the way that Sakahàn is set up it commands a different level of thought and introspection than other exhibits of this scale.”

And it is this insertion and inclusion into so many spaces that repeats an important motif across the Nation’s Capital – that contemporary Canada includes strong Indigenous voices.

Woman standing in front of an art work at a gallery speaking to youth sitting around her on the floor.

Photo by Patrick Doyle of the Ottawa Citizen

Métis artist and the National Gallery’s Sakahàn Educator Jaime Koebel relates this story:

LARA – “She was a young girl who had participated in the Sakahàn summer camp tours. I explained to the youth about “Āniwaniwa” and how a building that the community had a special connection to was overtaken by a flood. This flood was created by industry people in New Zealand who needed a hydro-electric dam to produce energy for the diamond mine they were putting in. She cried because I related it to losing Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health or the Odawa Native Friendship Centre and having love for a building. [The loss of that building would mean] not being able to practice your culture or traditions or have community gatherings anymore “because, what if the Ottawa River covered it all?” like the Waikato River in Hora Hora did? It was an example of how much this can affect our next generation. The very next visit, she was explaining to a new summer camp youth about Brett Graham’s “Āniwaniwa”  piece – she was confident and she wasn’t crying, she was participating and had learned a little piece of Indigenous history.”


Aniwaniwa
from Tony Clark on Vimeo.

Maori artist Brett Graham’s “Āniwaniwa”  is one of the moving installations at the National Gallery that communicates, in an aesthetically stunning way, a painful memory. I doubt that there is a single work included at Sakahàn that doesn’t touch on deep pain but with 150 pieces by over 80 Indigenous artists from 16 countries it is clear that there is a growing global movement to express and explore the best way to communicate the legacy of trauma to audiences of all backgrounds.

While visiting Ottawa from New Zealand Brett Graham had a chance to lead a workshop with the summer camp kids. With incredible experiences like this, where the youth are up-close and personal with some of the leading international artists of our time, they get the chance to have many magical moments.

The spark created by Sakahàn will give our youth the chance to go on to create a new cultural legacy for this country. It’s going to be amazing to see the artistic fruits that these children grow.

Can’t wait!

Logo for Sakahan Youth


Trailer by filmmaker Melody McKiver for Sakahàn Youth‘s Junior Curator project – Nigi Mikan / I Found It: Indigenous Women’s Identity

SAKAHAN CLOSES THIS LABOUR MONDAY, SEPT 2. DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE TO SEE THIS GROUNDBREAKING EXHIBIT!

Sakahàn’s Youth Programs through the National Gallery include:

Youth Tours
Junior Curator Program
Sakahàn Youth Ambassadors
Our Ways; Our Stories
– a lecture workshop series

As well as partnership programs with the Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition:
Sakahàn Youth Summer Camps
Concentric Circles – Artists stay at 3 local reserves (Kitigan Zibi, Pikwàkanagàn, Akwesasne) for 1 week
Sakahan School Programs – this program will continue past Sakahan’s closing date of Sept 2 into the school year.

Follow  Sakahàn Youth on Facebook and twitter @Sakahan_Youth.

Also check out the CBC’s Waubgeshig Rice’s coverage of the Sakahàn Youth program
Teaching through aboriginal art camp: Children in Ottawa are learning about the First Nations culture through the Sakahàn camp”

Poster for Youth programming for Sakahan with image of a stone carving of two hands joined by a lock.

 

5,196 CHILDREN OF SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE REMEMBERED: Art Gallery of Ontario & Ai Weiwei

“Say Their Names, Remember” by Chinese artist / activist Ai Weiwei taking place from noon to 5 pm, August 18, 2013 at the AGO, Toronto.

When the government fails its citizens we can still participate in creating a space for remembrance, healing and change. In conjunction with Ai Weiwei’s exhibit “According to What” the AGO is hosting a community memorial for the children who were lost in the Sichuan Earthquake of 2008.

Below information cited from the AGO website:

Say Their Names, Remember

简体字
繁體字

Community Art Performance
Sunday, August 18, noon to 5:00 p.m.

Five years after the devastating earthquake in China’s Sichuan province on May 12, 2008, close to 300 community members will join together at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for Say Their Names, Remember to honour the memory of the thousands of school children who perished that day. Inspired by provocative Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s powerful artworks Remembrance (2010) and Names of the Student Earthquake Victims Found by the Citizens’ Investigation (2008-11), the community participants will read out 5,200 names in a poignant remembrance.

Say Their Names, Remember is directed by Toronto artist Gein Wong, Artistic Director of Eventual Ashes.

For those unable to attend but who would like to watch from home, we will be live-streaming the performance here.

U ROCK: And a Tale of an Antidote to Unilever’s Dove Campaign Part 1


Greeting Card by U Rock. Photo by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

“Be strong. Be confident. Be real. BE YOU.”

On Saturday at Kitchener’s Bloomin Earth Festival on my way to see friend Dona Geagea’s Beyond the Jar table I discovered this really fantastic line of children’s clothing. Super sweet second hand tees embroidered with these funny little monsters made from scraps of other second hand clothes.

Image of child sized t-shirt with funny monster stiched on the front I love inventive up-cycling. I also like to see snazzy alternatives to the brand name kids’ clothing lines that in many cases have been touched by the modern day slave trade – other children paying the price so North American kids can wear trendy but cheap attire.

Not really in the market for shopping for kids clothing though I moved on but not without first noticing U Rock’s handmade greeting cards as I was grabbing for their deets.

Greeting Card by U Rock. Photo by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Baby's onesy with stitched funny monster on the front and the words I think I rock. Just like the little creatures on the tees and  baby onesies the one-of-a-kind cards were adorned with these humourous characters that were too adorable to pass up. Perfect for the little monsters in my life, my 4 yr old niece (“I am 4 AND ¾s Auntie Leah!”) and 8 yr old nephew, the message was exactly what this proud aunt wants to say –  “I THINK YOU ROCK!”

The reason I decided to share U Rock on MIXED BAG MAG was that after the launch Dove’s “You are more beautiful than you think” Campaign a few weeks back I was pissed that yet again, in some manipulated branded effort to promote self-esteem in females, the “message” still implied that our self-worth is tied to our level of physical attractiveness. HAVEN’T WE ALL HAD ENOUGH?! More on that later in my Part 2…

Greeting Card by U Rock. Photo by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

I had just come from spending a week looking after my young niece and enjoying watching her grow into her unique little self. I shared in her excitement when she learned 16 new words in 1 day. Determined and focused, I adored watching her take pleasure in her victory. She was confident and up for the challenge even if it meant struggling with some unknowns. It was joyful moment for this auntie to participate in but then comes the worry. I know what it is like to be female. As much as the world has changed it hasn’t. I want to spare her the years of agonizing over her appearance, of stitching her self-worth to whether or not someone thinks she is beautiful on the outside.

I am already crying for that moment she caves on the inside and her light is blown out by some stupid comment that drowns out all the good ones from her mother, her grandmother, her aunt. It’s a hard road to get back on once you get knocked off.

So when I read the story of U Rock I thought this is branding done RIGHT. Sorry Dove! Your message is just not that authentic. But Megan Goos comes from a personal place and when I started to talk to her young daughter Bianca (a budding entrepreneur and creative kindred spirit) you could tell this mom has done well! Her daughter has a strong light burning and she was confident in sharing with me the products she designed for U Rock – pins made from bottle caps and her favourite bead combos as well as necklaces. You can sense her self-worth is already meshed with what she can bring to the table as a creative human being. Again, you just want to find a way to keep that fire lit as it was refreshing to speak to a child not afraid to explore her own creativity.

Greeting Card by U Rock. Photo by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

“The story of U ROCK

Once upon a time there was a girl most would have labeled a super nerd – glasses, braces, preppy blouses tucked right in and buttoned all the way up. Of course, she had no choice about the braces or glasses, but the rest of her appearance was designed by fear. She would rather have worn rainbow sock with plaid pants, pink and red when it was still called clashing, or a homemade polkadotted neon trenchcoat. But she dressed safe, for fear of what others may think of her.

After she grew up a little she realized it was rather tiring keeping all this awesomeness buried inside. While trying to work out her “real” self with her younger brother he (intentionally?) played devils advocate with every item she expressed like for. Growing weary of her younger brothers tormenting she said “well I don’t care what YOU think. I think I rock!”

And to this he said, “fine, just put that on your shirt!”

So in early 2007, UROCK was born to help others like herself, build confidence in themselves.

Don’t try to be something you’re not, just to impress people. Don’t act a certain way just because someone told you to. Be who you really are – because who you really are is probably really awesome!!

Be strong. Be confident. Be real. BE YOU.”
(cited from www.ithinkirock.wordpress.com)

By nature we are consumers – we require food, clothing, shelter – but it is good that more and more we have choices that allow us to vote with our money and make purchases aligned with our values, saying NO! to Unilevers of this world.

I applaud Megan for her amazing ideas and for the record – Bianca, I think u rock!

Find U Rock on Twitter @urockrecycled, Facebook and Etsy as well as the U Rock Website.

U Rock header that says U Rock and that's all that matters!

How many slaves work for you?

There are at least 27 million slaves worldwide. That’s roughly the combined population of Australia and New Zealand.”

MIXED BAG MAG challenge: Find out how many slaves you employ in your lifestyle by taking the Slavery Footprint Survey. I took it and my lifestyle employs 23 slaves too many.

Find out more on the Made in a Free World website.

“1.4 million children have been forced to work in Uzbek cotton fields. There are fewer children in the entire New York City public school system.”

DIGIPLAYSPACE: Final Weekend for Digital Play @ TIFF

Young boy playing with interactive screen, ipad and computer

“digiPLAYSPACE is an interactive adventure where kids will engage with emerging creative media technologies and innovative artistic experiences!”

It’s a great time to be a kid!  Innovative educators are getting it that for children (and adults too) play = learning. The out-dated model of teaching by dictation followed by recitation needs a DNR order – no resuscitation please! Experiential learning is where it is at. And exhibits like TIFF Bell Lightbox’s popular digiPLAYSPACE give kids that chance to do just that by interacting with “emerging creative media technologies.”

Recently TVO’s The Agenda featured a series called Learning 2030 to explore how these digital technologies will impact the classroom of the future.

Children born in 2012 will graduate from high school in 2030. They will grow up in a world dominated by the Internet, smartphones, computers, and tablet computers. They will likely participate in a historically crucial transition — one as significant as the introduction of Gutenberg’s printing press — from learning steeped in books and blackboards to learning shaped by the screen.” (cited from www.tvo.org)

In this new world where bits of data come at us from all directions it is essential that the generations coming up understand how to assess and build a framework around information to create relevant meaning. More than ever children need to be taught how to learn rather than just what to learn.

Speaking on the March 1st panel for The Agenda’s The Classroom of 2030 at Kitchener’s Communitech  Mark Federman (Alder Graduate Professional School) says that we should  replace the emphasis on the 3 Rs to the 4 Cs – Connection, Context, Complexity and Connotation  – “we need to become used to ambiguity” and not knowing the outcome before we start. A child who is confident in environments where the outcome can’t be predicted is a child who will be able to navigate new spaces and bridge connections between complex ideas within multiple contexts to make meaning that is relevant to them.

Young boy playing with potatoes acting as conduits for electricity

Something as simple as an app can enable a child to go on a non-linear, exploratory journey of discovery. This New Culture of Learning includes, as The Agenda’s host Steve Paikin says, “very strange concepts like fun, passion, games.”

Panelist Douglas Thomas (author of A New Cultural of Learning) says that teachers shouldn’t be punished for making their classrooms easy and rewarded for making the work hard. When a child comments that their class is easy what he or she is really saying is that they are engaged.  Easy does not mean that the learning is not without challenge. Play + Challenge = Solutions.

Young boy and woman high fiving each other

Two local playmates and advocates of deep learning via the lightness of fun are Zahra Ebrahim (archiTEXT) and Mary Tangelder (Spire Works).

“ Zahra’s design class at Ontario College of Art and Deisgn (OCAD) carried their chairs three blocks to Toronto City Hall and initiated a game of musical chairs with passer-bys — an activity that inevitably led to dialogue about community and public space. With Canadian Federal ministry, she’s facilitated a workshop to illuminate the role of play within bureaucracy; back in Toronto, she’s engaged social entrepreneurs with alternative ways of brainstorming through play. Over in Kenya, Mary regularly leads play activities with post-graduate university students to explore how to design schools and learning spaces in refugee camps and communities affected by war, conflict, and natural disasters.” (cited www.huffingtonpost.com) 

Images of kids playing with toys made by the 3D printer in the backgroundChildren playing with interactive screenDescription of interactive exhibit

And in this new world, Canada’s educational system would benefit from taking cues from older traditions that are tried, tested and true. The Learning 2030 series also included a panel discussion –  “Looking to the Future of Aboriginal Education.” Among the many points raised, David Newhouse (Chair of Indigenous Studies at Trent University) touched on the fact that experiential learning is not some new trend but rather the way indigenous cultures have been passing on knowledge for generations –  long before the first Bible was printed in good ol’ Gutenberg.  (Listen to the Q & A podcast.)

The indigenous way sees the world as the classroom and peer-to-peer learning as foundational. This is not unlike the vision panelist Christine Webb (Director, Academic Programs at University of Waterloo Stratford Campus) has for describing the classroom of the future. She believes that the classroom will become decentralized through online technologies and more emphasis will be placed on the interaction between students learning through each other via chatrooms and blogs as well as creating e-portfolios together. In a virtual space the physical classroom is replaced by a digital “textbook” where students, mentors and educators can co-create and collaborate. It is just the kind of space that affirms play as a valid process for education.

And this style of learning leaves plenty of room for spontaneity and plenty of time for field trips to TIFF!

So treat the 21st Century kids in your life to the final weekend of digiPLAYSPACE. From iPods to potatoes, 3D printers and interactive green screens digiPLAYSPACE offers “an interactive adventure where they will laugh and learn with new media technologies, interactive art installations, learning-centric games, mobile apps, and new digital tools and hands-on production activities. There’s something for everyone!” (cited from www.tiff.net)

Young boy casting a ballot in a box to vote for his favourite exhibit at DigiPlaySpacePhotography by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

MARCH BREAK: What is Happening Around Toronto for 21st Century Kids

Advertisement for kids exhibit at TIFF called DigiPlay Space saying it is an interactive adventure

“The future is in the hands of kids.”

Designed by Toronto talents Mason Studio & aftermodern.lab digiPlaySpace is “an interactive exhibition where kids will engage with emerging creative media technologies and innovative artistic experiences!” (cited www.tiff.net)

In its 2nd year, this popular event opened in time for March Break but will be running until April 21.

Find out more about the exhibit events on Tiff’s website.

Also check out 3 great upcoming workshops:

Spy Mystery Workshop Saturday March 23

Maker / Creater Workshop Saturday March 30

3D Printing Workshop Saturday April 6

Sounds like a lot of fun! Are adults allowed?

Also around town, March Break programming at Design Exchange, The Royal Ontario Museum and Art Gallery of Ontario.

HAPPY MARCH BREAK!

Children holding up eggs to camera showing the activities during March Break at Royal Ontario Museum