It’s all for the kids.
Thousands of people rallied at Victoria Island and on Parliament Hill yesterday for the second annual aboriginal Day of Action, in a peaceful demonstration meant to turn Canadians’ attention away from last year’s road blockades and focus it on child poverty.
“This march today was about our kids,” Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine said during an event marked by colourful garb and displays of traditional dance and song.
A year after the event shut down Highway 401, the AFN had urged participants this year to obey the law and rallies in Ottawa were peaceful, with city police reporting no problems. Fontaine said the demonstration is not about blockades, but about recruiting Canadians to help end First Nations’ poverty, which he called “a shameful situation.”
Thirty-nine aboriginal communities in Canada are without schools, said Fontaine, and there’s a housing shortage of about 80,000 homes.
“Children have the right to go to school with food, and come home to a decent home with clean water,” he said. “Why is all this happening in one of the richest countries in the world?”
The day is meant to demand answers to that question from the federal government.
“We want to communicate a clear set of objectives for the Government of Canada to work with us,” said co-ordinator Dan Wilson.
The rally also asked the government to: replace the Indian Act with First Nations involvement in local decision-making power; provide fair funding in core programs like education and child and family services; and recognize the rights of First Nations governments.
“Things have not improved for us, and indeed, problems are growing,” said Algonquin National Elder William Commanda. “My people are the most disadvantaged. We do not receive an equitable share of our own resources.”