Child welfare advocate Cindy Blackstock has fought a lot of battles over the past 10 years.
But she hasn’t been alone in pushing for equality for First Nations’ kids.
A fuzzy little fellow named “Spirit Bear” has kept her company at each and every hearing, including the ground-breaking 2013 case against the federal government at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
“I really wanted something in the room that reminded all of us about what this case is actually about, which was children,” said Blackstock, a Gitxsan activist and executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.
So it was only natural the stuffed animal, which was gifted to Blackstock by the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council in British Columbia, would help tell the story of the historical case.
A book entitled “Spirit Bear and Children Make History” was released about a month ago.
Blackstock said it’s geared towards children in Grades 2 to 6 as a way to help educate and create change.
“If we can raise a generation of non-Indigenous children – who know about these inequities, who don’t accept these inequities or rationalize these inequities – that creates a better ground for those inequalities to end for First Nations’ kids,” she said.
“Not only for children and young people and their families…but for university students and university professors, who look at this almost as a textbook because there’s so few cases – legal cases – where children have not just been the subjects of the law, they’ve been participants of the law and justice and reconciliation.”
Spirit Bear has matured right alongside Blackstock, obtaining a law degree, setting up a Twitter account and, by this time next year, starring in an animated short film.
“We’ll all have to figure out what Spirit Bear sounds like, that’s going to be our next little task,” said Blackstock with a chuckle.
Proceeds from the self-published book will be donated to children’s reconciliation projects. It sells for $15 from firstname.lastname@example.org.