The Canadian government is underfunding First Nations kids

Kendra speaking at “Have A Heart Day,” a youth-led event to support the rights of First Nations children. (Courtesy of Michael Hawkins / Wicked Ideas)

Kendra speaking at “Have A Heart Day,” a youth-led event to support the rights of First Nations children. (Courtesy of Michael Hawkins / Wicked Ideas)

12-year-old Kendra Levi-Paul writes about her advocacy for other First Nations students in Canada.

My name is Kendra Levi-Paul. I am a 12-year-old girl from Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick, Canada. That is in the Signigtgoog district on unceded Mi’kmaq territory.  I now live in Listuguj, Quebec, which is on the Gespeg Mi’kmaq district. I’m in sixth grade and I love to draw. I’m also an advocate for First Nations youth. 

My advocacy began when I started going with my mom to her social work classes. There I learned about Cindy Blackstock, a First Nations youth advocate. She fights for First Nations children to have equal access to education, health and welfare services from the government. When I learned about Cindy, I realized I’m youth. I should be fighting for my rights and protecting my rights so they don’t get violated. So I began to advocate. 

Kendra's letter to New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant inviting him to attend "Have A Heart Day."

Here is how I see it: the government is underfunding First Nations kids and many of us are suffering as a result. For example, schools on reserves don’t always have proper funding so they aren’t in the best conditions. It may be so bad that it makes it difficult for students to learn. I’ve seen schools on reserves where the ceilings were falling apart and bathroom stalls didn't even have doors. It is horrible.

I like to speak to classes or the public about this situation because not everyone is aware. This year, I gave a speech on the steps of the Legislative Assembly for “Have A Heart Day.” This event is led by First Nations youth to make sure the government supports us so we have safe homes, receive good education, are healthy and are proud of who we are. Sometimes the government treats like we are invisible so we have to let them know we are here.  

At “Have A Heart Day,” I met Stephen Horsman, Deputy Premier of New Brunswick. I presented him with letters that were written by children about how First Nations youth are being treated unfairly. With their words I hoped to encourage the Deputy Premier Horsman to implement Jordan’s Principle and to stop discriminating against First Nations youth. Jordan’s Principle makes sure First Nations children can access public services just like other children. The provincial government has still not implemented Jordan’s Principle. 

I want other youth to speak out about their beliefs. Your beliefs are not just about religion but they’re also about what you think is right. Many youth don’t speak out because they think that the adults won’t listen to them. I know I’m just a 12-year-old kid and I don’t have a lot of control, but when I raise my voice like at “Have A Heart Day,” it really feels like I can create change. 

I hope you take action. We must voice our concerns against decisions that the government makes which can harm our future. If you want to make a change, you can. You can start by asking questions, learning more and raising awareness. If you want to learn more about how to support First Nations youth, you can do so here

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Kendra Levi-Paul is a 12-year-old student and First Nations youth advocate. She loves to draw and hopes to become Prime Minister of Canada one day.