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



    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:

    
    -   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.
    

    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.

    
                        www.northsouthpartnership.com
    






For further information:

For further information: Alana Kapell, Southern Coordinator, Office:
(905) 944-7087, Cell.: (416) 986-6772, akapell@northsouthpartnership.com;
Linda Nothing Chaplin, Northern Coordinator, Office: (807) 737-3466, Cell.:
(807) 737-0674, Linda.Nothing-Chaplin@northsouthpartnership.com

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THE NORTH SOUTH PARTNERSHIP FOR CHILDREN

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