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Opinion

The colonial toxicity of the ‘be patient’ speech

By Cindy Blackstock      

If we want to really honour Shannen Koostachin and the many children like her—we need to speak up, keep talking until government takes immediate action to end the inequality. If they don’t—vote them out because kids like Shannen are worth the money. The time for patience is over.

Shannen Koostachin, pictured Nov. 26, 2008, at the Attawapiskat Human Rights Forum shorty before she spoke to 600 youth activists in Toronto as part of the Attawapiskat fight to close underfunding gaps of First Nations schools on reserve. Koostachin died in a car accident when she was 15 years old. She and her Grade 8 classmates had launched the campaign when they were being educated in squalid, broken down portables and her campaign later became the largest youth-led human rights movement in Canadian history. She was nominated for the 2008 International Children's Peace Prize. Koostachin's campaign was made into the 2013 documentary film, Hi-Ho Mistahey, directed by Alanis Obomsawin. The fight for Koostachin's dream of equal rights for First Nations children continues. Photograph courtesy of Janet Doherty

MONTREAL—What does it feel like when the Canadian government does not feel like you are worth the same amount of money as other children in Canada and being told to “be patient” by the government when you talk about the problem? Shannen Koostachin could answer this because she lived on reserve at the Attawapiskat First Nation, where the federal government funds public services but does so at far lesser levels than other people in Canada receive from their provincial/territorial governments.

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