11-year-old First Nations activist says on-reserve schools get second-best

An 11-year-old girl from Listuguj First Nation called Tuesday for giving First Nations children the same access to health and education services as other students in the province.

Kendra Levi-Paul hoped premier would show support for fair access to health and education services

Kendra Levi-Paul wants First Nations youth in New Brunswick to have equal access to health and education services. (Edwin Hunter/CBC)

An 11-year-old girl from Listuguj First Nation called Tuesday for giving First Nations children the same access to health and education services as other students in the province.

"We're being underfunded and it's a big problem," Kendra Levi-Paul, a Grade 6 student, said at the legislature in Fredericton.

She spoke as part of Have a Heart Day, a national initiative that seeks to secure equal access to health and education services. Other speakers included Tobique Chief Ross Perley.

Singing, dancing, drumming and presenting a collection of Valentine's Day cards from indigenous youth, which are being delivered to the Premier Brian Gallant, were also part of the day's presentation.

Say reserve school is disarray 

Kendra has moved away from Elsipogtog and now lives on the Quebec side of Listuguj, but she said images of the New Brunswick reserve have stayed with her.

When her family last went to Elsipogtog, she looked inside the school's bathroom.

"It was horrible," said Kendra, who is becoming a political activist. "It really grossed me out. Some of the stalls didn't even have a door. The ceilings were falling apart.

"I moved and I found it was the best move ever. However, some kids can't move."

It hurts seeing people she knows struggling in this province, she said.

Supports Jordan's Principle 

Kendra called for the implementation of Jordan's Principle in New Brunswick to prevent First Nations children "from being denied essential public services or experiencing delays in receiving them."

Jordan's Principle, endorsed by the House of Commons in 2007, is a child-first initiative that is supposed to be used in resolving jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children, according to the federal government website.

Schools off reserves are managed by provincial and territorial governments, and on-reserve schools are ran federally, which the auditor general of Canada has suggested puts on-reserve schools at a disadvantage.

Invites premier

Kendra said she invited Gallant to the event at the legislature to show his support for the campaign for equal quality and access in health and education.

The premier did not attend, but deputy premier Stephen Horsman said he would pass along the message.

"We got the invitation after his schedule was set, which is why we asked the deputy premier to go in his place," said Jonathan Tower, deputy director of communications for Gallant.

Kendra hopes Gallant gets her message.

"He's in charge of New Brunswick and I'm just an 11-year-old kid," she said. "I don't really have much control, but today it seems like I did."