1 in 2 Children Goes to School With an Empty Stomach in Aboriginal Communities

by audreynoiseux on December 11, 2017 - 3:04pm

Over the course of the semester, I have always been particularly interested in social issues related to human rights. Specifically, most of the topics that I chose to write about were related to Aboriginals in Canada. In 2017, in the developed country we evolve in, I still cannot believe that some people are not equally given the same opportunities as the rest of the population. One of the main causes of this issue is the residential schools system imposed by the Canadian government to Aboriginal people until 1996. This ‘cultural genocide’, as described by the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, must be taught in schools, as a first step towards comprehension and reconciliation. However, in Quebec, it is still not part of the curriculum. Nevertheless, Indigenous people are still overrepresented in Canadian jails. The suicide rates among Aboriginal communities remain higher than in the overall population. In addition, their employment rates are lower than anywhere else. Finally, an issue on which I have decided to focus personally as part of my volunteering experience, is the school dropout rates. Indeed, the school dropout rate among the Aboriginal population is of 43%, while it is of 15% for the non-Aboriginal, showing a significant, extremely worrying gap between both. 

 

 

For my volunteer work, I decided to volunteer for the Breakfast Club of Canada. The organization targets lower income areas and implants a food program that gives breakfast to children in schools. Any children from the school can go and eat, even teachers. Therefore, it does not target and put a tag on children in need. I thought that their goal was honorable and I wanted to know what they were doing for Aboriginals in Canada so I contacted them and decided to go to Kanawhake reserve’s primary school. Over there, I helped volunteers to serve breakfast and talked with them about the impacts of the club in their community. What is very interesting with that organization is that you can get involved on a short term or long term period and you can do it as a group. You can get involved with your coworkers, your friends or even with your sport team and then go one morning per week or every two weeks for as long as you want. They are very well organized and are always looking for volunteers. Furthermore, you can volunteer in your own community if there is a breakfast club near where you live, since there are over 300 clubs in the province of Quebec only. 

 

I found that this organization really responds to a national problem. Indeed, Canada is the only developed country of the G7 that does not offer a national food program in schools while one out of 5 Canadian children is at risk of going to school with an empty stomach. That ratio increases to 1 in 2 children in Aboriginal communities. A study conducted by the Toronto Foundation for Student Success in Ontario shows that being fed before going to class increases the graduation rate by 13%. In Aboriginal communities, the impact is even greater for the whole community, because of another reason we would not think of. The breakfast club gives an opportunity to many mothers and other members of the community to get involved and to accomplish something. It also shows the community the role of education in the accomplishment of a child, therefore making it more encouraged within families themselves.

 

In order to express how meaningful and troubling this issue and all the social inequalities encountered by the Aboriginal people in Canada are to me, I decided to write the following song. 

 

In my opinion, when words themselves are not powerful enough to describe the horror of a situation, there is music.

 

Since it was my first time recording a song, I was not very comfortable using the microphone. Therefore, here are the lyrics of the song in case some parts cannot be properly heard.

 

 

 

The Best Country

Lyrics written and sang by Audrey Noiseux

Music by Victor St-Laurent

 

I grew up in the best country

Health care and education for free

Oh yeah it’s all about equality

For everybody, it’s easy to be happy

 

Inadequate housing and crowded living conditions

Lower levels of education

No wonders of drugs addictions

Closed eyes on aggressions

Closed eyes on suicide rates

Closed eyes on women disparitions

Closed eyes on the debate

Crazy death rates amongst children

 

Let’s make this song our anthem

Let’s make things change for them

 

I grew up in the best country

Health care and education for free

Oh yeah it’s all about equality

For everybody, it’s easy to be happy

 

A crisis denounced by the United Nations

Forcing our Prime Minister to say sorry for the segregation

Sorry for the residential schools system

And for forcing their isolation

This reality, it’s our real problem

Justin, how fake is your conjunction

Need improvement of their life conditions

There’s no valuable explanation

 

I grew up in the best country

Health care and education for free

Oh yeah it’s all about equality

For everybody, it’s easy to be happy

 

I grew up in the best country

Health care and education for free

Oh yeah it’s all about equality

For everybody, it’s easy to be happy

 

 

The best country, that’s what they made me believe

 

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About the author

I recently took a year off to travel and volunteer, since then, my perspective of the world completely changed and so did I. I feel that I can now adapt to almost any situation, I enjoy meeting new people and am very easy going.