Recent Ontario Court decision to incarcerate First Nation leaders has detrimental impact on children

 

Recent Ontario Court decision to incarcerate First Nation leaders has detrimental impact on children

 

Copyright © 2008 Canada NewsWire Ltd. All rights reserved.

 

TORONTO, March 26 /CNW/ — TORONTO, March 26 /CNW/ – Mamow Sha-way-gi-kay-win: The North-South Partnership for Children held a press conference today to voice their concern about the impact the recent court decision to incarcerate six members of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) will have on the community at large and most importantly, on the children. On March 17, 2008, five democratically elected First Nation community leaders and one community member were sentenced to six months in jail on contempt charges for their peaceful opposition to a court injunction that would allow mining exploration on their traditional lands.

 

"Chief Donny Morris, my colleague, my friend and co-chair of Mamow Sha-way-gi-kay-win, a kind and a gentle person, is in jail for a cause that is crucial to the well-being of his community. The children, youth, mothers, fathers and grandparents are struggling with these actions of the province," said Judy Finlay, former Ontario Child Advocate and co-chair of the Partnership.

 

The climate of fear and hopelessness created by the imprisonment is unbearable for the First Nation community and most particularly for the children. To children already enduring unacceptable rates of depression, suicide and family and cultural separation, removing the principled and caring leaders of their small community is devastating.

 

"KI is afraid. There is terror in the community. The children recognize their parents' terror, it is very scary," reports KI spokesperson Jacob Ostaman.

 

The province has stated, "Ontario is charting a new course…that leads to improved opportunities and a better future for Aboriginal children and youth."(1) Yet, inadequate legislation, the lack of constitutionally-protected due process to consult First Nations communities, and resulting court decisions provide undeniable evidence that Ontario is not fulfilling its commitments. "To incarcerate community champions for children – one of the few assets the children of KI have – is to further set back their chances for a healthy, productive life," explains Finlay.

 

"I am alarmed that this is the second Chief in Ontario that we see in this situation. I am alarmed to see who may be next. I am saddened at the message the government of Ontario is giving to the most vulnerable of it's citizens, the First Nation children and youth," Chief Scott Jacob of Webequie First Nation.

 

Mamow Sha-way-gi-kay-win: The North-South Partnership for Children calls for the following steps to prioritize the protection and well-being of the children of KI:

 

 

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– The immediate release of incarcerated KI community members back into

the community to continue their support for the children of KI, their

families and their children.

 

– The Ontario government to withdraw the mining permit, as it was not

granted in accordance with the principles of consultation as set out

by the Supreme Court.

 

– The amendment of the antiquated Ontario Mining Act so that it is

consistent with the protection of the constitutional rights of First

Nations people.

 

– The legislative review process to include a child impact assessment,

so that future decisions consider the full spectrum of environmental

and human rights obligations – consistent with Canada's ratification

of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

 

– Understanding and support from the entire province to ensure a just

solution is realized.

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Mamow Sha-way-gi-kay-win: The North-South Partnership for Children is a developing partnership that represents the coming together of First Nation Chiefs, Elders, youth and community members living in remote communities in northwestern Ontario and caring individuals and voluntary organizations based in southern Ontario.

 

In recognition of the desperate needs of children, youth and families in remote First Nation communities, our collective goal is to learn from one another and to support the dreams and efforts of remote northern First Nation communities for their children.

 

 

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www.northsouthpartnership.com

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