Category Archives: race

Newsflash: Poverty is Bad for Your Health

A recent study from Columbia University found that of all the health factors they measured, poverty had the greatest negative impact on health. The other factors they looked at included smoking, obesity, lack of health insurance, and binge drinking, all of which had a less significant impact on health outcomes than living in poverty. Poverty, defined as living below 200% of the United Stated Federal Poverty Level, was determined to take away 8.2 years of health, meaning poor people have 8.2 fewer years in which they are healthy than someone above 200% of the FPL (This is a standard measure of health burden, used by the WHO.) We should also be explicit that when we talk about poverty we talk about race – over 50% of black and Latino young adults live in poverty, compared to less than 30% of white young adults.

To which I respond, well, YES, clearly. But you would never know these things from the way we talk about health. Think about how many public health programs are focused directly on the spectre of obesity. There’s PE programs and school activity policies, public education campaigns (usually involving TV ads) to tell people to spend less time watching TV, there’s calorie labeling requirements and scolding people to go to their farmer’s markets and taxes on soda or foods with trans fat. Some of those policies may have worth, but their goal of eliminating TEH FAT ZOMG and thereby solving the health crisis is clearly misdirected. Even worse are the articles and attitudes engendered by this focus on obesity as a health issue, like this recent article in the LA Times, because they imply that a systemic issue like the health care problem can be resolved by individuals changing their lifestyles, rather than by systemic change on a much broader level.

The effect of poverty on health has been clearly documented. People who live in poverty are more likely to have asthma and diabetes. They’re way more likely to be exposed to parasites like toxocariasis, cysticercosis, and toxoplasmosis, which can have significant physical and neurological effects including seizures and developmental delays. They’re five times more likely to be exposed to lead paint as children. They’re twice as likely to have untreated cavities, which can lead to heart disease or infection and even death. This all means that from the beginning, even from birth, people living in poverty are more likely to develop or acquire a disability or chronic health condition.

It would seem, then, that addressing poverty in order to prevent those negative health outcomes would be a public health priority. But it really isn’t – poverty programs are rarely described as health programs. When a politician starts talking about welfare, they’re talking about cash payments to help parents raise their kids, to preserve and support families. They don’t talk about how assisting a family out of poverty will make that whole family healthier, and less in need of health care. And addressing the negative health effects of poverty – safely removing all the lead paint, preventing slum housing conditions like cockroach infestations and mold that contribute to asthma, get them some access to dental care – would have an enormously beneficial effect on hundreds of thousands of individuals and on the health care system as a whole. However, addressing the systemic effects of poverty isn’t nearly as easy as shaming “the fatties” and slapping some calorie numbers on menus.

This is especially galling because there is so much overlap between the community of PWDs and people in poverty. A recent study found that almost half of working-age adults who experience poverty for at least a 12-month period have one or more disabilities. People with disabilities account for a larger share of those experiencing poverty than people in all other minority, ethnic and racial groups combined and are even a larger group than single parents. Families with more than one member with a disability are even more likely to be living in poverty. There are two things going on here. First, people who live in poverty are more likely to be or become PWDs, partly because of the health factors discussed above. But also,  PWDs are more likely to live in poverty, partly because of the cost of health care.

All of this suggests that our conversations about health care need to include ideas about addressing poverty and that our work on poverty issues has special effects on health and disability. Hurrah for intersectionality!

For Cereal, Cute Overload?

A periodic feature in which we highlight some of the more ableist posts and comments in the blogosphere – the things that made us throw up our hands and ask “FOR CEREAL???”

I’m late on this one, but that doesn’t make me any less upset. Cute Overload is one of the best and most regular suppliers of the cuteness I so often need to take the edge off the day, but it’s becoming increasingly problematic. They have a continuing series called Cats n Racks, featuring photos of kittens placed in cleavage, usually cutting off the woman’s head. Recently the site posted a picture of a extremely wrinkled puppy with lots of excess skin and compared it to Eleanor Roosevelt (described here at Filthy Grandeur). She also points out a recent photo of a wallaby titled “The New Slave Girl, She Intrigues Me,” captioned with what sounds an awful lot like a rape fantasy.

Not content to settle for racist and sexist, the site went for a hat trick and added ableist to their list! In their post reviewing the ten most popular posts of 2009, number five is a photo of a bunny with a long forelock brushed over one eye, called “Emo Bun.”

a small grey bunny looking to the side, with a long forelock of fur falling over one blue eye.

The text reads “On June 18, Stephanie N. took a minute from cutting herself to send us this awesome shot, an emotional bunneh.” The alt-text for the photo of the bunny reads “No Mom I was NOT cutting myself!”

FOR CEREAL, CUTE OVERLOAD? I’ve written at length about my issues with the term “emo” elsewhere, but beyond that, the multiple references to cutting are 100% non-negotiably inappropriate. Having an undeniably cute bunny whine about cutting minimizes and dismisses the very real pain of people who do self-injure. It implies that self-injury is a choice as superficial and changeable as a trendy hairstyle and that it’s done to fit into a trend. It’s not funny. And it’s certainly not cute.

Invisible Identities, Part 3: The Privileges and Pains of Passing

Previously:
Invisible Identities, Part 1: Invisible to Whom?
Invisible Identities, Part 2: The Default Human

Note:

I’m told that in the American context, when speaking about race, the term “passing” is most associated with black people due to a pretty loaded history. This is not the case where I live, simply because that’s not the history we have with the term. As such, when I speak of passing race-wise, I am not speaking only of light-skinned people of African descent who can do so. I realise that this post could therefore be a somewhat uncomfortable read for people in that context, and am putting up this note to therefore hopefully address some of that discomfort.

It’d probably be a good idea to read the previous posts in this series if you find anything else in my word use or context confusing, especially as many of the points in this post build on the previous posts.

Comments that say it’s wrong to try and pass, or conversely that someone ought to try and pass, will not be tolerated. Either way attempts to take away something of someone’s choice, experience, decision making. How one negotiates one’s own life, how one chooses to deal with all the oppressions on hir back, is hir business.

Being able to pass is a privilege. Passing privilege means that others don’t grab my body or assistive devices, people I’ve never met don’t look at me with pity or disgust and I am less likely to face intrusive and upsetting questions. Those are amazing privileges that many of my fellows in the disability community don’t share with me. Passing privilege means that I am not watched suspiciously in stores, negative comments are not made about my features, white people feel comfortable to interact with me and strangers do not expect me to act as an example of what all people of my background are like. Those are incredible privileges that many of my background do not share.

First up, we must address the nature of passing. Sometimes it is active (one chooses to pass) and sometimes passive (one is passed). Sometimes it’s an interaction of expectation and experience, habit and circumstance. One cannot untangle one’s own efforts to pass or to not from the point of the idea of passing. That is, whether one passes or not is dependant on the outside observer. The whole idea of passing hinges not on what the (non)passer does, but on the observer’s response to that person. There’s an extent to which one can control it – and people have developed quite some techniques – but it’s not always a matter of choice as to whether to pass or not.

There’s a friction between passing and solidarity with one’s group. Those who can pass as being a member of a dominant group may miss out on many experiences and forms of discrimination that are held to be facets of that group’s commonalities. One of the main problems with passing is that in doing so an inequitable system is being held up (by those who pass others, by those choosing to pass). This is to say that passing supports the idea that equality, better treatment, is gained by melting into the dominant group. This is of course true, as is evident in, for instance, shifting definitions of whiteness; but one shouldn’t have to lose their own identity to the “good,” dominant identity in order to be dealt with well. We should work not until identities disappear but until they’re all okay to have.

That burden should be placed on those making the assumptions of – enforcing – default identities, not on the passers. Passers frequently report hostility from within their own groups, and accusations of not really being a member of their community from all sides. No one is less a member of the group for other people’s perceptions and it’s incredibly offensive to suggest otherwise. Passing is not always a choice; when it is, it’s presumptuous to resent someone for that and just outright wrong where safety is involved. How one deals with one’s own experiences of oppression is one’s own concern.

Being able to pass really messes with my head. I’ve frequent bouts of intense guilt about it, and I feel sick when people in my communities admire me for the features that make me more likely to pass (‘look at her beautiful skin.’ Increasingly I need to get the nearest bathroom and scrub and scrub where they grab my arm). Sometimes I don’t feel quite real or as though I’m cheating, an intruder in someone else’s identity. With regard to being disabled, this has some nasty consequences: in the past I’ve not gotten needs met, either because I can’t bear to out myself or because someone doesn’t quite think I’m truthful. Passing doesn’t mean I’m not struggling to remain standing while we’re talking. I struggle with passing and being passed. Sometimes I try and do it to feel safer (never safe) and lose my integrity. Sometimes I am passed, and it’s a mix of delight and loss and damage. Whatever I do, it’s never enough, I’m never enough.

Now I just mostly let people think what they will. The glowing effects largely disappear once I give off too many cues. Because so much of my identity, experience and expression is tied up with those of my identities that are invisible, the effects are frequently fleeting.

Being invisible doesn’t mean I face no discrimination but that I face less individualised discrimination in many contexts. Looking like I do has not prevented, upon the acknowledgement of my identity, looks of disgust, offensive remarks about my family, having to listen to racial hatred. It has not prevented the fear in me, the way I have not felt safe since I was a little girl. It has not prevented that I modify my dress, my speech, my movements, my stories in order to appear as “normal” as possible, just like anyone else trying to not face the wrath of whiteness. Attempting to invisibilise difference is hardly restricted to those of us who can pass.

The thing is, I’ve done everything. I’ve been loud and proud about my invisible identities. I’ve done my best to make them disappear. I’ve allowed myself to be passed, I’ve actively worked to pass. I’ve just been myself, I’ve made my identities explicit. At the end of all this anxiety and modification and thought and care, one thing remains constant: it’s the perceptions and actions of people in dominant bodies that count. When I pass, there’s still the weight of many manifestations of oppression on my shoulders. And irrespective of whether I pass or not, people outside of my groups still get to determine how I am treated and how I am perceived. There is no way to win.

[Cross-posted at Zero at the Bone and Feministe]

Haiti

As you’re likely aware, an immensely destructive earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. It was centered in the capital city Port-au-Prince, home to over 2 million residents, and destroyed buildings, food and water systems, hospitals, and seemingly the national government. The information and photos coming out of the country have been disturbing and heartbreaking. The full scope of the damage – to the people, to the country – has yet to be determined, but it is surely catastrophic.

The effect of the disaster on Haitians with disabilities is similarly devastating. Although the earthquake and subsequent building collapses happened so quickly that neither PWD nor TAB had an opportunity to get to safety, conditions after the quake are likely disproportionately difficult for PWDs. The streets are covered in debris and destruction, there is no electricity, and people need to scavenge for any available food and water. Additionally, literally all of the medical facilities in the city were destroyed in the quake, so there is no access to medications, doctors, anything. Even now, four days after the quake, there is extremely limited emergency care in Port-au-Prince, with people traveling 6 hours by car to one of the few undamaged hospitals in the country for emergency surgery.

In addition, there are an untold number of people who are newly disabled due to the catastrophe and its aftermath. Most of the injuries are open compound fractures, where broken bones have penetrated the skin. These require immediate surgery to re-set the bone and close the wound to prevent infection – which injured patients haven’t been able to get. These people haven’t gotten food and water, much less antibiotics.

Dr. Jennifer Ashton reported that “most of these patients have not eaten in three days. They are profoundly dehydrated and they have crush injuries to their long limbs, upper arms, body and, in some cases, open pelvic fractures, which set the scene for some very serious and life-threatening infection. In addition, when limbs get crushed like that, if they don’t have surgical management immediately, they risk losing that limb as the swelling and infection really take off and that’s what we’re seeing.” Ann Curry reported that desperate doctors were performing surgery on injured children without anesthetics. It is also likely that a number of survivors will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After the tsunami of 2004, PTSD rates averaged about 10% in the population.

It’s important to note that not everyone injured in the quake is subject to these conditions. American citizens were evacuated by U.S. Air Force planes and other chartered planes to be treated in United States hospitals. This Anchorage woman had her lower right leg crushed by rubble and was then evacuated to a hospital in Miami, where her foot was amputated. These conditions are affecting people without the money or resources to get adequate care. And they are exacerbated by the poverty and unstable infrastructure that existed prior to the quake. (Which the U.S. and France and other colonial powers created and sustained, but that’s more than I can get into with this post.)

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by this, but there are things you can do to help:

FINANCIAL DONATIONS

  • Portlight Strategies, Inc. focuses on Haitians with disabilities. It works with a community of Catholic nuns who will be opening shelters in Port-au-Prince for PWDs, and donated funds will go to “defray shipping costs of medical and clinical equipment … and for the purchase of food and other shelter supplies.”
  • Healing Hands for Haiti has been providing prosthetic and orthodic services and supplies to Haitians with disabilities since 1998 and will be deploying staff and equipment to help PWDs.
  • Christian Blind Mission, an organization focused on PWDs in the developing world, partners with local organizations in a number of medical facilities throughout Haiti. Donations will “support its Partners in the affected area with emergency assistance and long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.”

IN-KIND DONATIONS

  • Aid for AIDS is collecting medical supplies, including unused medications. They are especially interested in antiretrovirals to help Haitians with AIDS whose treatment has been interrupted by the disaster. There are drop-off points throughout the US, or you can send them to Aid for AIDS at 120 Wall Street, 26 Floor
    New York, N.Y. 10005.
  • Partners in Health is also seeking donations of these specific items: “need specific items urgently:  orthopedic supplies, surgical consumables (sutures, bandages, non-powdered sterile gloves, syringes, etc), blankets, tents, satellite phones with minutes, and large unopened boxes of medications. No small quantities or unused personal medications will be accepted.

Please also remember to take care of yourself during this time. It’s been easy for me to spend hours reading articles, looking at photos, watching footage, and feeling increasingly overwhelmed and helpless. Don’t lose track of your own health and well being.

By 17 January, 2010.    class issues, justice, medical practice, race, Uncategorized   



Invisible Identities, Part 2: The Default Human

So, I’ve talked about how the notion of the invisible identity is problematic, particularly through the framework of my personal experiences of being “invisibly” disabled and non-white. Now to the flipside of invisibility.

Certain characteristics exist in the societal consciousness as default traits. That is, a person is a man unless they’re pointed out as a woman (how many times have we all heard ‘woman lawyer’ or similar?) Disabled people are unexpected, out of the norm. The coming out process doesn’t exist for straight people, because everyone’s assumed to be straight until it’s made clear they’re not. While non-white people are described according to their race (‘the Asian man’), white people are described according to specific physical characteristics (‘the blonde man’). These are the default humans, and we are assumed to be so unless we are otherwise. It’s a strange phenomenon, really: these identities are represented so often, in so many contexts, that we don’t even describe them anymore.

It’s also curious because so few of us are that default human, white, cis, abled, middle class and so on. The default human is really quite far from being usual.

What the invisibilisation of privileged characteristics does is to invisibilise the privileges that go along with them. Straight people had to be told that they, like gay and lesbian and bisexual and pansexual (and more!) people, had a sexual orientation too, rather than just being “normal”. Race is so often approached as something only non-white people are concerned with. Abled people are regular people, and disabled people are wrong and bad and tragic. (If you think that disability is some kind of flaw located in an individual, please learn about the social model of disability.) It’s the reason for the assertions that ‘cis’ is an insult rather than simply a neutral term used as a replacement for ‘normal’ in describing non-trans people. There has been a great deal of reluctance and resistance on the part of the privileged to put a name to what they/we are. This is because doing so legitimises the idea that they/we exist in a specifically privileged state rather than just being the default, the norm. You name the thing, you make it real.

Here’s what I guess I’ll have to call a worked example, for lack of a better term. I’m told it’s particularly rude in the US to describe someone in terms of race. I’m sure you’re familiar with why “colourblindness” is a bad approach to anti-racism, but it’s worth recapping. “Not seeing” race – oh, hello, there’s that visuality thing again – does not make us all happy and post-racial. “Not seeing” race just makes sure we’re all launched right back into default white culture, because not mentioning difference erases our histories. And of course white people’s differences aren’t mentioned, because their cultures are assumed as default. When white people acknowledge their cultures, that is: there’s a tendency for white people to say they’re uninteresting, or they don’t really have a culture, because they do not perceive that their cultures are everywhere. All of which is not to mention that using “colourblind” in relation to anti-racism discourse appropriates the experiences of people who are actually colourblind. So erasing difference just reinforces racism, where we could be acknowledging difference as present and right and ours. The default human idea doesn’t work because none of us are. And it tries to make most people not exist.

Again, this has some icky effects on those of us who can be read as having an identity we don’t. Because I can tell you, being read as something you’re not? Can hurt like anything. I have experienced having my background erased as intensely threatening and hurtful. This often takes place in white spaces in which white people feel okay being racist because, hey, it’s only us white people here, right? I have had to listen to people question whether it’s better to be disabled or dead, and have sat through it, terrified, because these people, who previously seemed perfectly charming, are confidently questioning whether my community deserves to exist. And at the same time as I’m being misread, I have guilt, because sometimes I cultivate a white, abled image for safety or comfort.

Knowing how harmful default assumptions have been to me, I am trying to not assume them of other people. This is difficult in the extreme, because we are so trained to make assumptions about people’s identities. Something I’ve heard a bit from people who don’t fit the gender binary is that if you aren’t sure, just ask. I’ve not yet brought myself to do so (and I’m sure far from everyone would be comfortable with that) and rather wait for cues as to someone’s identity. Being uncertain is both frustrating and liberating: boxes aren’t just for sorting, they’re for boxing us in. A little ambiguity makes things more interesting, and less painful for those of us with invisible identities.

But now that I’ve made a good effort to stop assuming default status, I’m trying to stop assuming identity more generally. I’ve taken to describing white people as white, just to point it out and sometimes observe the cogs turning in someone’s head. I’ve mostly overcome trying to fit people into boxes of queer or straight. (Except for the cute ones.) I realised it wasn’t so important that I figure out someone’s identity if I was just having a chat with them in a line or some such. If I don’t need to know, I don’t need to know. Someone else’s comfort is more important that the satisfaction of my curiousity. This is particularly true for the people who don’t fit into boxes so neatly, or for those who wish to keep their identity under wraps. For instance, I myself am regularly nervous about being outed by careless friends about my disability status, because I often can’t afford to lose the credibility and respect passing as abled gives me.

I think it’s an interesting exercise to try and perform. If we’re not so certain anymore, how do we relate to each other? I think a good thing about this lack of certainty is that it requires you to relate directly to a person, discover their identities, rather than you putting assumptions onto them and deciding their identity for them. So while I’m still likely to read that person waiting in line with me as a white, straight, abled woman in her late thirties, sometimes I catch myself, or look back and think, maybe not. Maybe humanity is just more complicated than that.

[Cross-posted at ZatB and Feministe]

Invisible Identities, Part 1: Invisible to Whom?

Before I begin, I’d like to make a note on policing and culture. I’m going to go ahead and assume many of you are American. Please keep in mind that American experiences of race don’t apply everywhere. (What I’m particularly concerned with for the purposes of this post is that I’ve encountered a lot of sentiment to the effect that it’s more okay to question and deny the identities of lighter coloured non-white people. This is inappropriate in the Australian context, not least because of Indigenous notions of race. (Well, it would be if there was more respect paid to Indigenous notions of race.)) I can’t get more specific than that, simply because I am unaware of all the differences and issues. What I am trying to say is that sometimes I bump up against American notions of race and find myself confused, and doubtless we all feel the same encountering different cultures. So please keep the following in mind when processing this post or commenting on it: Experiences differ. Questioning an individual’s racial identity is not okay, nor their ways of negotiating it. And, you know, the same regarding one’s gender identity, or disability status, or whatever. The comments on posts in this series will be moderated accordingly.

I am a non-white person with light colouring, and I am physically disabled, but people generally can’t tell either by looking at me. My race and my disability status therefore come under the umbrella of what are known as invisible identities. These are not the only parts of me that fit into the category, but they are the ones I’ll be using to explore some of the problems with the idea of the invisible identity.

So, first up, we’ve got to ask what the phrase means. Invisible to whom? Whether an identity is invisible or not depends on who is looking.

My identities are not invisible to me. So who is doing the perceiving here? Not me, clearly. It’s not my ideas about myself that matter here. And it’s far less likely to be members of my communities observing and not realising I am one of them. So to whom are these identities invisible? The people who don’t share them. The privileged people are the ones who don’t notice my identities, who assume I am one of them, who deny me who I am. They are the ones who are noticing, the only ones with agency here. It is their perspective that gives us the term “invisible identity” and is allowed to define my experience and being.

And, of course, the person who “sees” is inevitably sighted. The whole concept of whether identities are visible or not relies on visual cues (not that those are themselves reliable). Once again, disabled people are left out of the equation; once again, privileged people are in charge of identity. As such, with regards to disability in particular, the notion of invisibility to describe the dynamic here is a fair bit problematic.

As such, the issue we’re left with is that a) other people are allowed to police and define someone’s identity and b) those people are the most privileged ones. White people have enforced a racial hierarchy, and abled people have said that these sorts of people are normal and these ones are not. And whiteness and abledness still seek to control who fits and who does not. But not everyone fits into boxes quite so neatly, and not everyone is the figure these oppressive systems imagine. But those parts of us outside the boxes are still parts of us. I think the existence of people like me acts to destabilise these rigid binaries of the okay people and the not okay people, because, between perception and actual self-definition, we are everything at once.

If you’re assuming you’re going to find white, abled people as you go about your day, you’re going to think you’ve found one in me. Being able to assume you can be in company with people like yourself is a function of privilege. I don’t get to assume that, but I do get to deal with privileged people’s ideas of what a non-white, abled person should be like. I may appear white and abled to someone, but that’s not who I am and not how I experience the world. These parts of myself are routinely rendered invisible, and I’m left to either out myself and gain a whole new set of difficulties in interacting with that particular person or group, or to be awkward and pained by being read as something I am not. And the tension between those two possibilities leads to more issues. I so often feel alone or threatened when in entirely white company and I feel embarrassed to look after my needs around abled people in a way I don’t feel around disabled people.

Because I often attempt to avoid outing myself. Being able to often pass gives me a level of privilege, and also some problems. I hope to devote a future post to that very topic; for now I want to talk about what happens when the invisibility lifts (whether because I’ve made my identity explicit, or someone else has). Once people find out about my being disabled, they often do their best to enforce that. (You poor thing! When are you going to get better! My cousin had that and got better with exercise and determination!) But possibly worse is when they don’t believe my identity, because then I get ridicule and shame and more questioning and you don’t need accommodations, darling. I don’t fit someone’s idea about what disabled people should be like, so I’m a faker and deserve suffering and scorn, lazy hopeless whiner. (Not that more obviously disabled people don’t receive similar treatment!) But whether I’m invisible or not, or whichever of these ways my identity is treated, I don’t get to control it for myself.

It is not a reflection on my identity that other people read me in particular ways; that’s their problem. I have been used to saying that I look like a white person, but the truth is that I look like me, and I am not white. So this is what a non-white person looks like, regardless of other people’s perceptions. I don’t know why someone else’s perception should be allowed to erase how other people react to my identity and – far, far more to the point – how I go through the world and what has shaped me. I don’t understand why it’s so important to have control over someone else’s identity. You cannot tell someone’s background merely by looking, and that is where racism falls apart. You cannot tell someone’s disability status merely by looking, because we have our own ideas about what constitutes disability.

Negotiating invisible identities is a strange place to be in. You’re both limited and given choices that other people are not. And, of course, the extent of the invisibility shifts depending on context (not so invisible when I’m performing cultural activities or limping) and the observer. It’s a complex game of passing, being passed, cues, policing and a struggle to be perceived as one is. It has made me less likely to assume identities of other people, and has made me more careful while going about my life. I can’t know whether being visible would be harder or easier, but I wouldn’t change who I am. I live in liminal spaces, and I have my identities, visible or otherwise.

[Cross-posted at Zero at the Bone and Feministe]

By 25 November, 2009.    identity, race, social attitudes  ,  



Jordan’s Principle

This post was originally published in July 2009 as part of International Blog Against Racism Week

One of the things that we talk about here, on occasion, is how lucky we are that Don is a white man with a disability living in Canada. Things become more complicated in my post-racial utopia of a country when someone of a different race is born with a disability.

Take, for example, the case of Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba. Jordan was born with “complex health needs” (this is code for Carey Fineman Ziter Syndrome, a rare muscular disorder) and spent the first two years of his life in hospital. At that point, his doctors agreed that he could go home and live with his family, although he would need continuing care.

If Jordan hadn’t been First Nations, he would have gone home, and his care would have been paid for by the provincial government as part of his health care costs. However, as a First Nations child, the cost of Jordan’s care became an argument between the provincial and federal government. Neither wanted to pay for it, so Jordan stayed in hospital.

He died at age 5, having never been home.

First Nations advocates came together and wrote Jordan’s Principle:

Under this principle, where a jurisdictional dispute arises between two government parties (provincial/territorial or federal) or between two departments or ministries of the same government, regarding payment for services for a Status Indian child which are otherwise available to other Canadian children, the government or ministry/department of first contact must pay for the services without delay or disruption. The paying government party can then refer the matter to jurisdictional dispute mechanisms. In this way, the needs of the child get met first while still allowing for the jurisdictional dispute to be resolved.

This was adopted unanimously by the Canadian Government in December, 2007.

In principle.

Special Needs Kids May Be Forced Into Foster Care (May, 2008):

Government infighting has families in a northern Manitoba community in anguish about how to best care for their children.

The Norway House Cree Nation has told the families of children with special needs that they may be forced to give up their children because the First Nation can no longer pay for their care, and federal and provincial governments can’t agree on who should pay.

Charlene Ducharme works with the Kinosao Sipi Minisowin Agency, a social agency on the reserve, and said she has yet to see Jordan’s Principle in action. She said the children of Norway House deserve the same care that other Manitoba children get.

“Our premier said Manitoba would be the first one to implement Jordan’s Principle… we’re still waiting.”

Late in 2008, the Manitoba Government also adopted Jordan’s Principle.

However, in reality, very little has changed. According to a UNICEF report issued this year, in honour of the 20th Anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children in Canada still suffer in comparison to other children:

1 in 4 First Nations children lives in poverty compared to 1 in 9 Canadian children on average.

In cities of more than 100,000 people, approximately 50 per cent of Aboriginal children under the age of 15 live in low-income housing, compared to 21 per cent of non-Aboriginal children.

In contrast to the national infant mortality rate of 5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, the rate is 8 per 1, 000 among First Nations and 16 per 1,000 in Nunavut (where 85 per cent of the population is Inuit).

Only 63 per cent of First Nations children on selected reserves accessed a doctor in 2001; 46 per cent of Inuit children and 77 per cent Métis children did so, compared to 85 per cent of Canadian children on average.

Between 33 and 45 per cent of Inuit, Métis and First Nations children (on and off reserve) report chronic illness.

On-reserve First Nations child immunization rates are 20 per cent lower than in the general population, leading to higher rates of vaccine-preventable diseases.

38: The percentage of deaths attributable to suicide for First Nations youth aged 10 to 19. In 1999, the suicide rate among First Nations was 2.1 times higher than the overall Canadian rate. The rate of suicide for Inuit is 11 times higher than the overall rate of the Canadian population.

[Source] [Report Summary, WARNING: PDF]

Canada’s ranking on the Human Development Index, which is used by the United Nations to measure a country’s achievement in health, knowledge, and a decent standard of living is third. Evaluating the living conditions of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people alone, their ranking is 68th.

My country prides itself on being “better” than the U.S. on issues of race.

Jordan died 800 km from home because he was First Nations. First Nations children in my country are not getting the care they need, the care available to other children, because they are First Nations.

This is not an improvement.

[International Blog Against Racism Week]

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