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Toronto vigil for Indigenous children and youth

By: 
Gustavo Carlos

July 24, 2017

Grassroots Indigenous women of Tkaronto started a vigil for Indigenous children and youth in front of INAC’s (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada) office, in Toronto. It is in solidarity with the families whose youth have taken their lives, to pray and to raise awareness.

Since July 20, they’ve put up signs in front of the building showing statistics about the current situation Indigenous children and youth are facing. Since 1986 there have been 543 suicides, and 22 suicides this year alone. While $451 million is spent every year on child apprehension only $21 million is spent on prevention—resulting in more Indigenous children “in care” today than at the height of residential schools, and the highest rate of child welfare apprehensions in the world.

The demonstrators are going to stay at INAC’s door until at least July 24, rain or shine, day and night, when an emergency meeting will take place in Ottawa between Indigenous leaders and government. More than a year after the occupation of INAC offices across the country in response to suicides at Attawapiskat, this demonstration comes a few weeks after the “celebration” of Canada’s 150th, and is proof of ongoing colonization and resistance.

Socialist.ca spoke with land defender and water protector Sigrid Kneve, supporter of Idle no More and one of the woman in front of INAC since July 20, about this demonstration and what is expected from this meeting in Ottawa on July 24.

Could you please explain why you are here in front of INAC’s office once again?

SK: We’re here at INAC as a lot of you know 15 months ago, we’re locked down in there and this time we decided to do a vigil, peaceful vigil. We have people coming here and we’re just educating people as they walk by, we have a number of signs up here with stats and we have a Facebook page. We’re here in prayer and ceremony to show solidarity and to have an awakening with the public, that’s why we’re here.

Since INAC’s occupation in 2016 to this day, what’s the response from the Canadian Government?

SK: We went for two meetings into INAC with conference calls and with some ministers in there and really got nowhere. They’ve just kind of been ignoring us until we went to Carolyn Bennett’s 150th year picnic, Canada’s picnic and we asked her why have you not emailed us, or messaged us about the meeting. We just confronted her about the issues, all the issues that we have been asking and for a meeting. First she called us liars and said we never emailed her, we never called her, but we did. Then she came the next day to Allan Gardens, where we do the Sunday lunch and she’s going to have a meeting with us probably in three weeks time.

What do you think when money isn’t released to Indigenous communities, but Trudeau gives the OK to increase budget for the Ministry of Defence, also spends a lot of taxpayers’ money with Canada’s 150th celebrations and even hiring lawyers to fight court decisions in the regards of equitable assistance for Indigenous children?

They lawyer up and we told Carolyn Bennett that, we told to her face. I said you lawyer up and I keep going to court over and over with these cases and they’re always lawyered up. Him [Justin Trudeau] spending that money is just a fear tactic, they’re afraid and we know they want to put fear into people by spending this money making people afraid of whoever, it’s not the way I’d ever spend that money.

What do you expect from this emergency meeting in Ottawa on July 24?

SK: There’s going to be a meeting on Monday, in Parliament and we really don’t know who’s going to be at that meeting. We’re trying to find out, but there’s no list as of it yet. We’ve been doing research and we have now found out who’s going to be at that meeting and we know Carolyn Bennett is going to be there and maybe Trudeau, maybe…

It’s an emergency meeting to discuss this issue and what I think they’ll do is probably release some money like if you read one of the stats over there, they’re were supposed to release $380,000 and they didn’t. Two young ones committed suicide when that money could’ve helped. My niece was here yesterday and she’s a professor at York for social work and she told me that social workers up there, that have been there pretty much since graduation, they’ve never been back home to their own territories because they’ve just been staying in these communities and they’re totally burned out so they need help, they need more workers up there, not rangers.

For updates follow the Facebook page Urgent Vigil for Indigenous Children & Youth Suicides

 

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