Op-ed: The human impact of Jordan’s Principle
- Jeanelle Mandes | February 25, 2019
We’re already in our second month of 2019 and this winter feels like an endless year. During these long winter days, it’s great to take a break to talk about health and wellness – which ties into this month’s newspaper theme.
When I think of Indigenous health, Jordan’s Principle comes to mind – a principle used in Canada to ensure Indigenous children have equitable access to all government funded services no matter where they are living. This initiative has been helping Indigenous families for years. Last year’s February issue of Eagle Feather News, I wrote a story of a family that voiced their financial need to offset the costs of a medical trip. Trudi Mercerdi’s son Darnell was in dire need of a facial reconstructive surgery as he was born with a condition that caused his brain to stick out of place. They found a doctor who could perform the surgery but the only barrier was finances. Mercredi was unable to secure financial assistance from her home community of James Smith Cree Nation. But she didn’t give up hope.
Following the release of this story, she received a phone call that her son’s medical trip will be fully covered under the Jordan’s Principle.
A couple weeks later, I spoke with people from Jordan’s Principle in regards to advertising. The story I wrote on Darnell and his mother, came up in conversation.
I was told this story was read by Cindy Blackstock, the national advocate for Indigenous Child Welfare. Apparently, she sent the story link to people at a higher level and it was around the time that Mercredi was informed Darnell’s medical trip would be fully covered.
I was truly honoured.
The fact that Cindy Blackstock read my story was an honour on its own but what’s even more incredible is the action she took to help a family in need.
I’ve been in touch with Mercredi recently. She informed me that Darnell finally went on his medical trip last month in Toronto.
Darnell had face corrective surgery which consisted of taking parts of his skull and placing in front of his eye. They also removed the plate that was on his right side by his forehead. After 10 hours, the surgery was a success.
“Surgery was a dream come true for Darnell,” said Mercredi. “He wanted his right side to look exactly like his left side. He is one very happy little man surgery was a success.”
Darnell has two other surgeries to replace the top of his head with bone, correcting the inside of his mouth and aligning his teeth. But it’s a procedure that will have to wait until next year to allow Darnell time to heal.
This is a dream come true for Darnell and his mother. And, it was all thanks to funding from Jordan’s Principle.
This initiative has also been very beneficial to my family.
My daughter Sharlize is autistic, dependent and has complex needs. She used to fall through the cracks of this system but I wear two hats at the table; an advocate and her mother. I used my voice to fight for her rights for a fair education and access to services and supports that she needs. A lot of those services requires money. But thanks to the Jordan’s Principle initiative, my daughter is able to excel in her development.
From Darnell’s success story to mine, advocating the need for equitable access to supports and services is needed across Canada for Indigenous peoples – no matter if you’re living on or off reserve. To achieve wellness, taking good care of your physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health is essential. Take care and keep warm!