Have a Heart Day McGill is a reconciliation event in collaboration with the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society that brings together caring Canadians to help ensure Indigenous children have the services they need to grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and be proud of who they are.
On February 1st, 2018 the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued a fourth compliance order finding Canada’s approach to First Nations child welfare to be unlawful and discriminatory. Have a Heart Day is a chance for everyone to get together, learn more about the injustices in our society, and get involved in the process of reconciliation. This event seeks to build on the momentum of the Human Rights Tribunal latest ruling in favour of First Nations kids.
At the core of the event will be a Valentine card writing campaign, where everyone is encouraged to send a message to Parliament in support of safe schools, clean water, and good healthcare for Indigenous children. Paper and pens will be provided for anyone who needs them and postage to Parliament is free!
Seating is first come first serve, and entry is free. There will be catering at the event for anyone who is rushing from class or work and is worried about not having time to eat!
The events at McGill will consist of presentations and a panel discussion with a number of prominent figures who have devoted themselves to promoting reconciliation and raising awareness about issues facing Indigenous people: Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Alanis Obomsawin, Samir Shaheen-Hussain, and Stephen Agluvak Puskas.
Dr. Cindy Blackstock is the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and began teaching at McGill’s School of Social Work in January 2018. A member of the Gitksan First Nation, Cindy has 25 years of social work experience in child protection and Indigenous children’s rights. Her promotion of culturally based equity for First Nations children and families and engaging children in reconciliation has been recognized be the Nobel’s Women’s Initiative, the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Frontline Defenders and many others. An author of over 50 publications and a widely sought after public speaker, Cindy recently completed a Master of Jurisprudence degree and currently serves as a Commissioner for the Pan American Health Organization Commission on Health Equity and Inequity.
Samir Shaheen-Hussain got involved in social-justice movements in 2001. He obtained his medical degree at McGill University in 2003, where he later went on to complete his pediatric residency training. He has been the pediatric consultant for Médecins du Monde's Projet Migrant initiative since 2011 and is currently a board member of Médecins québecois pour le régime public. Over the years, he has been part of Indigenous solidarity, migrant justice and anti-police violence organizing and has contributed texts to various publications, including Le Devoir, Briarpatch Magazine and Nouveaux cahiers du Socialisme. He currently works full-time in a pediatric emergency department. Most recently, he has been involved in spearheading #aHand2Hold efforts to reverse provincial policy that prevents caregivers from accompanying their children during medical evacuation by air-transport, a practice that disproportionately impacts Inuit children from Nunavik.
Alanis Obomsawin, a member of the Abenaki Nation, is one of Canada’s foremost documentary filmmakers. The many films that she has directed with the National Film Board of Canada explore the lives and concerns of Canada’s First Nations. Her 50th and most recent film, Our People Will Be Healed, reveals how a Cree community in Manitoba has been enriched by an adequately funded school that nurtures Indigenous culture. As an activist filmmaker, Obomsawin has always been driven by a desire to give Canada’s first peoples a voice. Throughout her career, Obomsawin has consistently focused her lens on the importance of roots and intergenerational bonds in preserving First Nations culture. Obomsawin was inducted into the Playback Canadian Film & Television Hall of Fame in 2010 and honoured during the inaugural Birks Diamond Tribute to the Year’s Women in Film at TIFF in 2013. In 2014, Obomsawin also received the Humanitarian Award for Exceptional Contributions to Community and Public Service from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television.
Stephen Agluvak Puskas is an Inuit visual artist and radio host living in Montreal. He is a Indigenous community representative for both the Montreal police and Dawson College. He helped start Montreal’s first Inuktitut radio show and has extensive experience speaking at schools in order to raise cultural awareness within the greater Montreal community.
Paper and pens will be provided so everyone can send a Valentine to Parliament asking for safe schools, clean water, and good healthcare for Indigenous children.