Mediate BC Blog

Indigenous History Maker: Cindy Blackstock

Posted by Julie.Daum

This is my favourite time of year, beginning of summer and June brings us the longest days of the year and also Indigenous History Month.

This year I wanted to celebrate Indigenous History makers. 

We have had a year of bad news regarding Indigenous people’s lives and deaths, from Covid-19, the ongoing opioid crisis, racism in the health care system and police shootings. The entire world has changed and while some want to go back to “normal,” many realize that the old “normal” wasn’t the same place for us all. For far too many Indigenous people, the community infrastructures have been underfunded compared to other communities, and that can be seen in the poor housing and lack of running water in many communities. What was less visible to the eye, were the services for the communities, also unequally funded but made visible by low graduation rates and reduced life spans of Indigenous populations. Schools and social services and programs for children have long been underfunded and the result has been large numbers of Indigenous children in the child welfare system. Many people have worked together to fix these issues in the systems, but one person who has worked tirelessly is Cindy Blackstock.

Photo provided by First Nations Child & Family Caring Society

She is a history maker. She is a member of the Gitksan First Nation, she is a doctor of social work, she is a professor at McGill and she is the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society filed a complaint against Canada through the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. In 2016, the Tribunal ordered the federal government to end the discriminatory practices and fund federal support on par with their non-Indigenous peers.

Dr. Blackstock is No.27 on Maclean’s Power List of the 50 most influential Canadians for this work and you would recognize her influence when you meet her, or hear her speak. She is filled with humility and is generous with her compliments and her laugh, and when she stands up to speak you can hear her power. Her voice is clear and compelling, her speech poised and purposeful and you can feel her compassion for the children and their families wronged by the system. She has been called “unrelenting” and I call her my hero for that very quality. Like a true Gitksan auntie, she has never stopped fighting for the kids. 

I have written a few words about my hero - Cindy Blackstock - and have invited colleagues to share a few words about their own. We'll share their thoughts throughout the month and welcome readers to share their own stories of inspiring Indigenous leaders.


About the Author

Julie Daum is the Chair of the Board of Directors of Mediate BC and our Calls to Action Committee. She is a mediator, facilitator, conflict resolution coach and instructor. She is a member of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, belongs to the Frog Clan, and resides on the Stellaquo Reserve in the central interior of BC.

Julie has developed and delivered workshops on culturally appropriate practices for working with First Nation families and communities.

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