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.

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.

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.