Open Letter from Kids Help Phone in response to the Attawapiskat First Nation crisis situation

TORONTO, Nov. 25, 2011 /CNW/ - Kids Help Phone's 22 years of service has been driven by a mission of improving the well-being of children and youth in Canada, and a conviction that every young person has the right to access resources that will allow them to develop to their full potential. We are very aware that not all young people in Canada have access to the material resources that are necessary to support their health and well-being, and that the uneven distribution of resources impedes many young people's ability to realize their potential. We are also aware that access to resources is uneven at the community level, and that First Nations communities - particularly those in the North - are under-resourced, and that the challenges faced by some of these communities require urgent attention and action.

We are heartened to learn that the Canadian Red Cross has stepped in to offer short-term aid to the Attawapiskat First Nation; a community whose housing crisis has become so acute that it declared a state of emergency over three weeks ago.

Much less heartening is the confusion and inconsistency regarding the Federal and Provincial Governments' commitment to addressing this community's crisis. Winter is on the horizon and there are young people and families that are living in tents, and un-insulated structures that lack plumbing, electricity, and safe sources of heating. The time to act is now - or, rather, yesterday.

We know that this situation didn't arise overnight, and we know that Attawapiskat is not the only First Nations community whose citizens are inadequately housed. Organizations like the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the North South Partnership For Children (among many others) have been drawing attention to the vast, and frankly unconscionable, resource disparities between communities like Attawapiskat and other communities for some time now. And at Kids Help Phone we have learned of these material inequities, and the difficulty of maintaining hope and well-being in the face of them, directly from young people who contact us as a source of support.

Canada does not end at the 50th parallel.  The young people and families living in northern First Nations communities are no less deserving of the basic resources required to foster physical and mental health and well- being than other young people and families in Canada.  They, like all living in Canada, have the right to safe and adequate housing, modern plumbing and heating, and access to culturally relevant education in or near the communities they call home.  While we acknowledge that meaningful and sustainable solutions don't arise overnight, we believe that where there is a will there is always a way. We sincerely hope that our Federal and Provincial governments take up the call to action that has come to them by way of Chief Theresa Spence, MP Charlie Angus, and other concerned organizations and citizens to renew and strengthen that will, to problem solve in consultation and collaboration with the leaders and citizens of the affected communities, and to take actions to improve the physical conditions for the young people and families who live in them.  We ask that the government show us, through its actions, that it recognizes that young people and families are Canada's most valuable resource.

Sharon Wood
President and CEO
Kids Help Phone

SOURCE Kids Help Foundation

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