Meet Cindy Blackstock.
Cindy Blackstock is the Executive Director of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society (Caring Society), an organization that empowers First Nations children, youth and families in Canada.
For over twenty years, Cindy has worked to ensure that First Nations children have an equal opportunity to succeed.
Cindy is a member of the Gitxsan Nation in the province of British Columbia. She recalls a childhood of discrimination and later, as a child welfare worker, she was exposed to the systematic injustices First Nations children face in Canada.
Cindy worked with the Canadian federal government to develop solutions to address the staggering number of First Nations children requiring social services. The government failed to implement the solutions proposed and more First Nations children entered the system for preventable reasons. In response, along with the Assembly of First Nations, the Caring Society filed a human rights complaint against the federal government of Canada in 2007. The complaint alleges that the government of Canada racially discriminates against First Nations children by providing them with less government funding for child welfare services on reserves than is provided to non-indigenous children. The groundbreaking hearings are ongoing and will conclude in 2014.
Since the complaint was filed, the Auditor General of Canada has conducted an audit that confirms federal funding given to First Nations child and family services is significantly flawed. The audit revealed that the federal government uses an outdated formula to allocate funding for social services, resulting in large inequities. The federal government has acknowledged unequal access to social services as an important contributing factor to the over-representation of First Nations children in social care but has yet to accept responsibility for a funding disparity.
Despite harassment by the Canadian government—the government monitors her online and offline activities—Cindy remains dedicated to the pursuit of justice and equality for First Nations youth. She remains ever inspired by the strength of the children she works with, particularly their determination for a better Canada.
Cindy is also an associate professor at the University of Alberta and is currently acting as an Expert Advisor to UNICEF on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Her work as a First Nations advocate has been celebrated with many awards, including the Atkinson Charitable Foundation’s Economic Justice fellowship and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award.