On Tuesday, May 10, First Nations Child & Family Caring Society
of Canada (The Caring Society) will recognize Bear Witness Day. The purpose of Bear Witness Day is to raise awareness about Jordan’s Principle, a child-first principle and legal rule that ensures First Nations children receive the services and support they need when they need it, such as access to healthcare and education.
The day also marks the birthday of Spirit Bear, a teddy bear and atonement bearer who represents the 165,000 First Nations children and their families affected by the human rights case that made Jordan’s Principle a legal rule, and the thousands of other children who stood by them for honesty.
Jordan’s Principle is named in fond memory of Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations child from the Norwegian House Cree Nation in Manitoba, born with complex medical needs. He died in hospital at the age of five as provincial and federal governments argued over who should pay for his home care — care that would have been paid immediately had Jordan not been First Nations.
After a nine-year lawsuit, the federal government was ordered by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to fully implement the Jordanian Principle by May 10, 2016. Although it took several more years and further non-compliance orders made significant progress, May 10 was chosen as Bear Witness Day as it is an important date in the history of Jordan’s Principle.
“Every year on May 10, we share Jordan’s story and encourage people in Canada to show their support and ‘witness’ to ensure Jordan’s principle is fully implemented,” said Cindy Blackstock, executive director at the Caring Society, in the same message. “Bear Witness Day gives us an opportunity to educate Canadians about the inequalities that First Nations children experience, and it helps us ensure that these children have timely access to the public services they need in the future. However, Canada needs to do a lot of work to end the persistent inequalities in the provision of services to First Nations children, youth and families. There are solutions, so public awareness and pressure is needed to ensure the federal government ends this discrimination.”
The Caring Society is inviting people in Canada to participate in Bear Witness Day 2022 by learning about Jordan’s Principle, sharing the information with family and friends, and posting a photo of their own teddy bear on social media using the hashtag #JordansPrinciple and #BearWitnessDay.
Visit The Caring Society to learn more about Jordan’s Principle and Bear Witness Day.
– Jennifer Cox