Honouring Our Children Day 2021

Everyone needs a time to be recognized and celebrated, and for children and youth in the care of Tikinagan Child & Family Services, the upcoming Honouring Our Children Day is one of those special days.

Tikinagan’s 12th annual Honouring Our Children Day, officially set for June 24, is all about the kids.

The day was started in 2010 as a way to honour children in care across the 30 Northwestern Ontario First Nations the agency serves, usually at the end of the school year. Since then, it’s grown into an annual event celebrated a little bit differently in each community.

Tikinagan’s community units host family-friendly events in the summer to give back to the community and remind children they are special and important, says Tikinagan Executive Director Thelma Morris.

“Kids need to be celebrated and honoured from time to time, especially those who are in care and away from their families,” she says. “They need to see there is a caring, supportive community standing with them and cheering them on.”

This year, many communities are using Honouring Our Children Day as a way to honour the 215 children found buried in unmarked graves at a former Residential School site in Kamloops, BC earlier this month. Some communities choose to wait and celebrate it along with their fall feasts, while others make it part of a long list of Canada Day events.

Children and families living in urban areas served by Tikinagan, such as Thunder Bay and Sioux Lookout, also join in the fun. In previous years, that has included bouncy castles and barbeques.

“The kids would be lining up all day,” said Morris. “The joy on the kids’ faces makes it worth it.”

Celebrations will be different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, Tikinagan continued to bring awareness to the day with a virtual message campaign, featuring guest speakers including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Ontario Regional Chief Roseann Archibald, and even former NHLers.

The videos were widely viewed and shared, drawing excitement about the day among communities and staff.

“It was amazing to see the local, provincial and national participation,” says Morris.

With public health measures still in place, it will be up to communities to select a date to celebrate Honouring Our Children Day and how they want to mark the occasion.

The month of June brings another important date, National Indigenous Peoples Day, which provides Canadians the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the unique culture, traditions, and history of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples on June 21.

The work of honouring children in care along with Indigenous history and culture happens every day at Tikinagan, says Morris, but the special occasions offer a chance to reinforce those values.

“The month of June is an opportunity for everyone to acknowledge the historical contributions of our peoples, the strength and resilience they show today, and the hope we have for our children, families, and communities to healthy,” she said.

“Many of our values at Tikinagan are reinforced in Honouring Our Children and National Indigenous Peoples Day. Our elders share the history of our communities and the roots of our culture, providing us wisdom, guidance, direction and encouragement.”