Her work has been shaped by more than 30 years of experience in child protection and Indigenous children’s rights, first as a senior social worker for the Province of British Columbia and then for the Squamish First Nation.
Appalled at the shortage of resources for Indigenous families, she joined with colleagues from Manitoba to form a national non-profit organization to provide research, policy, professional development and networking support for First Nations child and family services agencies. After a meeting at Squamish First Nation in 1998, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada was created. As executive director, she is an advocate and strong voice against the discrimination Indigenous children face, particularly as it relates to government actions and policies.
In 2007, she became the central figure in a groundbreaking complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal by the Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations. In January 2016, after nine years of testimony and investigation, the Tribunal issued a landmark ruling. For the first time in Canadian history, the federal government was ordered to provide equitable services to First Nations children and their families.
Dr. Blackstock travels tirelessly to communities all over Canada, reaching out to children, parents, policymakers and service providers. She is often accompanied by Spirit Bear, a teddy bear that doubles as a reconciliation advisor, with a very active Twitter account. With a little help from Dr. Blackstock, Spirit Bear has written a best-selling children’s book and outlined a plan to address inequities in public services for First Nations children, youth and families.
Dr. Blackstock’s vast contributions have been recognized with numerous honours, including honorary degrees, the Order of the Buffalo Hunt, the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (Public Policy) and an honorary lifetime membership in the Indigenous Bar Association. She has also served as a Trudeau Foundation Mentor and an Expert Advisor for UNICEF on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to Dr. Cindy Blackstock, a truth-teller, community builder and champion for the rights of all children.