Cindy Blackstock

First Nations Caring Society

Ottawa, ON

Sector Impact

Civic Engagement

Economic Development

Education

Health & Well-being

Human Rights & Equality

Indigenous Peoples & Reconciliation

Decolonizing Canada through legal action and public education

Dr. Cindy Blackstock is creating new pathways for equity on behalf of First Nations children and families and holding Canada to account for racist, colonial policies.

Championing equality.

In Canada’s child-welfare system, Indigenous children are grossly overrepresented due to the ongoing impacts of racist, colonial policies and mindsets. In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the federal government willfully and recklessly discriminated against First Nations kids on reserves in the provision of child and family services.

Dr. Cindy Blackstock was the driving force behind this ruling. She’s been a trusted champion of First Nations children’s rights for over a decade, demanding justice and advancing culturally-based, equitable solutions. She’s creating a totally different — decolonized — mindset that values true equality of funding, education and service for all kids, without exception.

As a Gitxsan child growing up in Northern B.C. in the ‘60s, Cindy experienced racism from people who mistook the dramatic symptoms of government oppression as racial inadequacy. Determined to rise above racist expectations, she pursued post-secondary education and became a social worker.

But frontline work didn’t fulfill Cindy. In fact, it enraged her. She saw how little the system was doing to address the real, root problems of child welfare and poverty. And she wasn’t alone.

Determined to bring about deep, systemic changes, in 1998, Cindy co-created the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, a national non-profit organization with an aim to provide research, policy, professional development and networking to support First Nations child and family service agencies in caring for First Nations children, youth, families and communities.

The Caring Society works with First Nations communities, advocates and governments on all levels to ensure culturally-based equity for children and families. It has had measurable impacts on tens of thousands of First Nations children and their families. In 2019, after issuing a series of non-compliance orders against the federal government (called for tirelessly by Cindy) the CHRT ordered Canada to pay up to $40,000 (the maximum amount allowable under the Canadian Human Rights Act) to First Nations children, youth and families who were harmed by the child-welfare system.

Cindy created Touchstones of Hope, a reconciliation movement that brought together public child welfare practitioners and members of First Nations communities. This connected 233 distinct First Nations groups, representing 30 different languages with unique spaces where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can co-create for the future collectively.

Cindy also created conditions to implement the historic Jordan’s Principle, named after Jordan River Anderson, a young Cree boy who died in hospital at the age of five while the provincial and federal governments argued over who should pay for his in-home care. Since 2016, more than 350,000 Jordan’s Principle cases have been approved.

The Caring Society provides reconciliation-based public education and offers research and support through education initiatives, public policy campaigns and by providing quality resources to the public. For example, the Caring Society’s Spirit Bear Plan to End Inequalities in Public Services for First Nations Children, Youth, and Families was unanimously endorsed by the Assembly of First Nations, the Chiefs of Ontario, and supported by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people around the world.

Cindy’s personal experience and outrage about inequity seeded the passion and resilience to devote her life to create systemic change. Her blend of community development experience, policy development and intellectual rigour have propelled her into a leadership role within the reconciliation movement. In 2018, NDP MP Charlie Angus referred to her as “Canada’s Martin Luther King at this moment for Indigenous children.”

The Caring Society
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Highlights from the Network

Peter Mansbridge speaks with Cindy Blackstock about the need for reconciliation
Cindy Blackstock on how to change systemic racism in Canada
The Globe and Mail: For Indigenous kids’ welfare, our government knows better; it just needs to do better
The long fight for the rights of First Nations children is discussed on a Rabble podcast