Meet 'Spirit Bear': A symbol of Indigenous reconciliation
A First Nations child advocate will soon release a book about an important character in the years-long fight for Indigenous child welfare – Spirit Bear.
Cindy Blackstock received Spirit Bear, a white teddy bear, as a gift from the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council in Prince George, B.C., nearly 10 years ago.
She brought the bear back to Ottawa when the hearings into the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case on First Nations child welfare were getting underway.
Blackstock said she wanted Spirit Bear to represent the 163,000 kids involved in the case. She brought the bear to all the tribunal hearings, to the Federal Court of Appeal, to the Supreme Court of Canada, and to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.
“This bear has come to symbolize the whole effort around reconciliation,” Blackstock said in an interview with CTV News.
To mark the National Day of Action on First Nations Child Welfare Thursday, Blackstock brought Spirit Bear with her for an interview on CTV’s Power Play.
“This bear is ten years old,” she told Power Play host Don Martin. “You can imagine what’s happened to children as the federal government fought his decision originally, and then hasn’t complied with it. They’re being removed from their families, they’re not getting the education that they deserve, and any further delays really pile up on the hopes and dreams of kids and are unacceptable to me.”
The Assembly of First Nations called on the federal government Thursday to “immediately and fully implement the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) orders on First Nations child welfare and Jordan’s Principle.”
In January, the human rights tribunal had concluded that the government was discriminating against First Nations children by providing inadequate child welfare services. Since then, the CHRT issued several compliance orders against the federal government, which critics say have not been fulfilled.
Blackstock said she will self-publish a book about Spirit Bear and his journey over the years. The book, aimed at children between the ages of four and eight, will be released in December.
With files from CTVNews.ca's Rachel Aiello