Posts tagged ‘aboriginal-youth’

John Beaucage to advise on needs of aboriginal youth

By Tanya Talaga
Queen’s Park Bureau, Toronto Star

For the first time, Ontario has appointed a special advisor to the government on the plight of aboriginal youth.

John Beaucage, former grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation, will be the aboriginal advisor on child welfare, reporting to Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten.

“This is a very important step and reflective to the significance we place on finding solutions to the very challenging issues that do exist, both in the north but also in our urban centres,” Broten told the Star.

Staggering youth suicide rates in remote northern communities and funding problems among First Nations children’s aid societies will be a focus for Beaucage. His one-year appointment coincides with an ongoing review of the Child and Family Services Act. The review hones in on the situation of aboriginal kids.

It would be a mistake to believe all the problems among First Nations children could be solved in a year, said Beaucage. Children in the north often grow up in Third World conditions, coping with poverty, substance abuse, inferior education and despair. Those problems often follow aboriginals off the reserve and into the cities.

“The problems have been there for a long time,” he said in an interview from Ottawa. “But what I am hoping is there will be a more inclusive process with First Nations leadership and leadership with urban aboriginal people.”

Nearly 21 per cent of Ontario’s 9,000 Crown wards are aboriginal kids or children with First Nations heritage. There are six aboriginal children’s aid societies and many struggle to manage historic funding inequities while taking care of vulnerable kids.

On Wednesday, the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies called improved services for aboriginal children one of three priority areas the province needs to tackle now.

A Star investigation last year focused on the troubles of Payukotayno James and Hudson Bay Family Services which nearly shut its doors because it could no longer afford to pay its bills. The agency was also confronting a teen suicide crisis – 13 youth in the remote communities dotting the James Bay coastline committed suicide in 2009, all by hanging.

Suicides among First Nations youth is a societal problem with no easy answers. “It is always something there that is lurking”, said Beaucage.

“I have experienced it, I’ve seen it and I would be remiss if I wasn’t able to make some kind of comment on it, speak to elders and to look at the traditional aspects of prevention of these horrible tragedies,” he said.

Broten did step in to help with Payukotayno’s $2.3 million debt. Costs are higher in remote agencies that often service fly-in only communities and have to charter planes in a moments notice to rescue a child in danger.

After the Star series appeared, Broten also provided funding for four suicide prevention workers.

But agencies serving First Nations communities are historically underfunded. An independent review prepared for the government in 2006 showed Payukotayno and Tikinagan Children and Family Services required a baseline funding increase of $24.6 million to give northern kids the same level of care Crown wards in the south receive.
A three-person committee is also studying the funding woes of all of Ontario’s 53 children’s aid societies, 49 of which have recently faced shortfalls.

Terry Waboose, deputy grand chief, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, called Beaucage’s appointment a positive step. “It is vitally important for us, child welfare is a big issue,” he said. “I see this as a positive step.”

Right to Play takes hockey north

Group, province offer program for community plagued by teen suicides

Representatives from Right to Play, provincial government and Moose Cree First Nation appear at Hockey Hall of Fame on Jan. 21, 2010.  TONY BOCK/TORONTO STAR

Representatives from Right to Play, provincial government and Moose Cree First Nation appear at Hockey Hall of Fame on Jan. 21, 2010. TONY BOCK/TORONTO STAR

 

By Tanya Talaga
Toronto Star

A sports organization known for its mission to build self-esteem in children from impoverished and war-torn nations is coming to a northern Ontario aboriginal community struggling with a teen suicide crisis.

Right to Play, an international humanitarian body operating in 23 countries, is bringing hockey to the Moose Cree First Nation, adjacent to the town of Moosonee, on the James Bay coast.

This is the first time Right to Play, which has sports programs in countries such as Lebanon and Burundi, has come to Canada. Instructors will use hockey to teach kids life and leadership skills.

If successful, the joint Ontario government and Right to Play program will spread to reserves across the north.

Using sports to boost the self-confidence of First Nations teens was the brain-child of hockey dad Brad Duguid, Ontario’s former aboriginal affairs minister. Last Monday, Duguid was promoted to minister of infrastructure and energy.

“These young people deserve more than they are getting right now,” Duguid said at a news conference Thursday at the Hockey Hall of Fame. “This is the fastest-growing young population in our province and our country.”

Duguid said he realizes hockey will not solve all the social ills plaguing First Nations teens. Improving the education system and job creation in the north will take time, he said. “As the time passes, we are just losing far too many of these young, vibrant people,” he said. “We have to do something.”

The program is looking for corporate and private donors to help cover the $1.6 million cost for hockey equipment, infrastructure and maintenance. The Ontario government is committing funds, but has not revealed how much.

A Star investigation last month revealed there were 13 teen suicides in the isolated communities in the James Bay area in 2009. All the teens died by hanging. Another 80 tried to take their own lives. Just Wednesday, the provincial government announced it will free up $470,000 in emergency funds to send four suicide prevention workers to help. Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy said First Nations teens are taking their lives at a frightening rate.

“What I see here today gives me great encouragement,” Beardy said of the hockey plan.

“It is something tangible, something my young people can relate to.”

New Partnership Promotes Life-Skills For Aboriginal Youth

 

Back Row: Chief Norm Hardisty of Moose Cree First Nation, Robert Witchel of Right to Play, Brad Duguid – Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, Chris Bentley – Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Grand Chief Stan Beardy of Nishnawbe Aski Nation. Front Row: Darlene Isaac, Aurora Delaney, Olympic and World Champion Sami Jo Small and Adrian Delaney.

Today, the Government of Ontario and Right To Play announced a new partnership that will promote a healthy and active lifestyle for Aboriginal youth through sport and recreation. 

Promoting Life-skills for Aboriginal Youth (P.L.A.Y.) is a pilot project being developed by Right To Play. The first community to benefit from the program will be Moose Cree First Nation. 

The program uses sport and recreation to develop leadership skills and provide youth with opportunities that may not otherwise be available in their community. It is based on similar sport and play programs run by Right To Play.

Right To Play is a humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health and develop life skills for children and communities in 23 countries around the world.