On January 25th, our partner Ryerson University hosted a discussion between former Prime Minister Paul Martin, who now helms the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative, and former AFN Grand Chief Phil Fontaine, about the future of identity and self-governance amongst First Nations peoples. Both men wondered aloud about why there is such an empathy gap in Canada when it comes to tolerating without outrage the "grinding poverty," in Fontaine's words, of our aboriginal communities. One solution, he felt, was to make Native Studies a mandatory class in Canadian high schools.

 

At the very least, one would suggest, a connection should be made between students, so that young people in the south see and come to care for the youth of the north. It is difficult to remain complacent in the realm of lived relationships. We are delighted that this idea is being picked up by Waterloo Collegiate Institute in Waterloo, who has just co-created a Facebook page with Thomas Fiddler Memorial High School in Sandy Lake First Nation. We hope that the exchange of stories, of hopes and fears and ideas, will foster precisely the kind of empathy that Fontaine and Martin called out for.

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