A Bear Witness Day and Mother’s Day Celebration was held on Friday, May 10 at the Communiplex at Canupawakpa Dakota Nation. An opening prayer and remarks were heard from Gerald Sandy, Band Councillor. Remarks were also heard from Candice Sanderson, Health Director and Cheryl McGilivery, Band Manager and the following is speech was read by Gina Schall, JPCFI Manager:
Jordan River Anderson was born in Winnipeg in 1999 with multiple disabilities that required special services and equipment to be in place before he could go to his home in Norway House. But those services and equipment were never made available for him because of the different levels of government were too busy arguing about who would pay for what. In 2005, at the age of five, Jordan passed away without ever being able to go home.
Because of the arguing and the delays caused by it, Jordan’s family filed legal action against the Canadian Government. This brought attention to the lack of services available to First Nations children. In 2007, the Canadian Government adopted the ‘child first’ principle that states all First Nations children are entitled to the help they need, regardless of jurisdictional disputes. But on May 10, 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the Government of Canada in non-compliance for restrictions it had put in place that prevented the full implementation of Jordan’s Principle. In May 2017, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued its third non-compliance order against the federal government.
To keep the pressure on the federal government to fully implement Jordan’s Principle, Bear Witness Day, every May 10, was established. The symbol for Bear Witness Day is the Spirit Bear. The reason the Spirit Bear was chosen is because a teddy bear was the favourite toy of Jordan River Anderson.
So today we honour the little boy, Jordan River Anderson, who is the reason this program began and to Bear Witness to remind the federal government that all First Nations children receive the services and supports they need when they need them.
“Jordan could not talk, yet people around the world heard his message. Jordan could not breathe on his own and yet he has given the breath of life to other children. Jordan could not walk but he has taken steps that governments are now just learning to follow,” Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.
The JP Boys’ Drum group played the Honour Song and Shyenne Chaske, JPCFO HCA/Case Worker divided participants into groups for a wagon decorating contest.