Have a Heart Day
Ten years ago on February 14, the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada made Have a Heart Day. Have a Heart Day is a children and youth-led reconciliation event. The aim of this day is to bring "together caring Canadians to help ensure First Nations children have the opportunity to grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of who they are."
Have a Heart Day raises awareness about problems receiving basic services such as health, education and child welfare on reserve. This inequity has existed for a long time, and it is still a major issue today.
Cindy Blackstock (Gitxsan) has been representing and advocating for Indigenous children in federal courts for over 15 years. Earlier this year, the federal government admitted to responsibility after losing 30 court cases. Despite this win, there is still a lot that needs to be done in order for Indigenous children living on reserve or in remote areas to have equal opportunities for healthcare, education, and child welfare.
What you can do to virtually participate in Have a Heart Day:
- Send a Valentine’s Day Card or letter supporting Have a Heart Day to the Prime Minister and your Member of Parliament
- Do some art projects shared on the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada's Website
- Spread the word on social media using #HaveAHeartDay / #JourneeAyezUnCoeur
- Have an online Valentine’s Day party at your school or community – you can register it online!
- Read the Spirit Bear Books - we've shared them below, and in this list!
Spirit Bear Series by Cindy Blackstock (Gitxsan)
Note: Any author or contributor that is Indigenous will have their nation next to their name in brackets where possible. Descriptions for the resources shared below are from the TPL website. Some descriptions may be shortened for clarity.
Most of the Spirit Bear Series only has physical copies at TPL, but there are copies freely available virtually on the First Nations Child & Caring Society. Here are afew of them:
Spirit Bear : Fishing for Knowledge, Catching Dreams by Cindy Blackstock (Gitxsan), illustrated by Amanda Strong (Métis)
Follow Spirit Bear as he learns about traditional knowledge and Residential Schools from Uncle Huckleberry and his friend, Lak'insxw, before heading to Algonquin territory, where children teach him about Shannen's Dream. Spirit Bear and his new friends won't stop until Shannen's Dream of "safe and comfy schools" comes true for every First Nations student.
Spirit Bear: Echoes of the Past by Cindy Blackstock (Gitxsan), illustrated by Amanda Strong (Métis)
For the past 13 years, Spirit Bear has been working hard to make sure First Nations children can grow up safely with their families, get a good education, and be healthy and proud of who they are. It’s been a long journey, and Spirit Bear goes on vacation with his family! Along the way, they see a statue of John A. Macdonald—Canada’s first Prime Minister— being removed from the steps of Victoria City Hall, and realize some people want to save it while other want it gone. They learn why people disagree and how we can learn from history to make better decisions now and for future generations of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit kids.
Spirit Bear: Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams by Cindy Blackstock (Gitxsan), illustrated by Amanda Strong (Métis)
Spirit Bear is on his way home from a sacred ceremony when he meets Jake, a friendly dog, with a bag full of paper hearts attached to wood stakes. Jake tells Spirit Bear that school children and residential school survivors will plant the hearts when a big report on residential schools called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC for short) is shared. The TRC will have Calls to Action so we can all help end the unfairness and make sure this generation of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children grow up healthy and proud!
Spirit Bear and Children Make History by Cindy Blackstock (Gitxsan) and Eddy Robinson (Cree and Anishinaabeg), illustrated by Amanda Strong (Métis)
When Spirit Bear's mom tells him about an important human rights case happening in Ottawa, Ontario, he makes the LONG trip to go and watch, and to stand up for First Nations kids. Spirit Bear knows that children can change the world because he's there to see it happen. This is the story of how kids--kids just like you--made a difference... with a bit of help from some bears and other animals along the way!
More books by others
Shannen and the dream for a school by Janet Wilson
The true story of Shannen Koostachin and the people of Attawapiskat First Nation, a Northern Cree community, who have been fighting for a new school since 1979 when a fuel spill contaminated their original school building. Shannen's fight took her all the way to Parliament Hill and was taken up by children around the world. Shannen's dream continues today with the work of the Shannen's Dream organization and those everywhere who are fighting for the rights of Aboriginal children.
Children of the Broken Treaty by Charlie Angus
Children of the Broken Treaty exposes a system of apartheid in Canada that led to the largest youth-driven human rights movement in the country's history. The movement was inspired by Shannen Koostachin. All Shannen wanted was a decent education. She found an ally in Charlie Angus, who had no idea she was going to change his life and inspire others to change the country. Angus provides chilling insight into how Canada … deliberately denied First Nations children their basic human rights.
Lastly, here's a great documentary..
We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice by Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki) featuring Cindy Blackstock (Gitxsan), is available to watch for free on the National Film Board of Canada website. The following description is from their website:
"Following a historic court case filed by the Assembly of First Nations and the Child and Family Caring Society of Canada against the federal government, Alanis Obomsawin exposes generations of injustices endured by First Nations children living on reserves and their families... Their case against Canada is a stark reminder of the disparities that persist in First Nations communities and the urgent need for justice to be served."