Yukoners celebrate six years of Jordan's Principle on Bear Witness Day
'His legacy has made an incredible difference in the lives of so many Indigenous kids'
More than 100 Yukoners gathered at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in Whitehorse to celebrate six years of Jordan's Principle in Canada on Bear Witness Day.
Jordan's Principle states that all First Nations children, living on or off reserve, must have equitable access to all public services.
It is named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a five-year-old boy from the Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba who died in hospital in 2005 as the provincial and federal governments argued over who should pay for his at-home care.
"[Jordan] was too young to pass away but his legacy has made an incredible difference in the lives of so many Indigenous kids, both in the Yukon and across Canada," said Courtney Wheelton, the manager of First Nations initiatives at the Yukon First Nation Electorate Directorate (YFNED), which organized the event with the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN).
Shadelle Chambers, CYFN's executive director, said Jordan's Principle works as a lens to make sure First Nations children get the support and services they need.
"We have to recognize that Yukon's First Nations children don't always get the support and services that they need and that there is entrenched racism and discrimination in some of the federal and territorial government policies," said Chambers.
Elementary school students, elders, and community members who attended the event ate their lunch, coloured on paper sheets, and watched a short stop-motion animated picture film that narrated the meaning behind Spirit Bear.
Spirit Bear is the name of the teddy bear that Indigenous lawyer Cindy Blackstock brought to court with her as she fought to end discrimination against First Nations children and Canada's failure to implement Jordan's Principle for many years. She said she brought the bear to court with her to remind remind lawyers and judges that it was lives of Indigenous children in Canada that were at stake.
The kids attending today's event were encouraged to bring their stuffed animals.
For students across Whitehorse who couldn't attend in person, the YFNED distributed 1,500 bear-shaped cookies made by Home Sweet Home Baking.
At the end of the month, CYFN will be hosting a two-day symposium for Yukoners to learn about the support and services available for Indigenous youth in the territory.