Our Children and Youth
Although Aboriginal cultures are diverse, children consistently remain the centre of our families and communities. Within Aboriginal cultures, people of all ages and genders have a role to play within our communities and across the life cycles. Aboriginal women across Ontario are often the caretakers of our children and youth, which means that we are invested in the care of our future generations. For this reason, it is essential that Aboriginal women are able to voice concerns and solutions based on our own lived experiences.
According to the 2006 census, children and youth make up approximately 36% of Ontario’s Aboriginal population. However, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, the Millennial Scoop and other colonial initiatives have undermined Aboriginal cultures, eroded parenting capacity, and challenged economic self-sufficiency. Aboriginal women in particular suffer multiple disadvantages as the caregivers of our children and youth.
Aboriginal children are more likely to live in poverty than non-Aboriginal children. As a result, our children are disproportionately represented in the child welfare and youth justice systems. The suicide rates of Aboriginal children and youth surpass those of non-Aboriginal children and youth by approximately five times. To combat the disadvantages experienced by our children and youth, Aboriginal women are asserting our rights and aspirations for a better future for our children and ourselves through a return to cultural traditions and self-determination.
ONWA’s Strategic Plan has identified child welfare as a priority area. ONWA is working with the Métis Nation of Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres on the creation of an Aboriginal Children and Youth Strategy that will be presented to Ontario’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services. ONWA’s department of Policy and Research also creates fact sheets, briefing notes, policy position papers, and reviews legislation – such as the Child and Family Services Act – to ensure that the voices of Aboriginal women in Ontario are heard on this key issue.