Dr. Cindy Blackstock talks of rights for Aboriginal children
Author: Dan Shervan – Contributor
On Jan. 21, Dr. Cindy Blackstock gave this year’s faculty of arts’ Woodrow Lloyd Lecture, titled Reconciliation in Action: Equal Rights for All Children. Her lecture focused on the systemic disadvantages facing Aboriginal children in Canada and the legal efforts to resolve the issue.
The education building’s auditorium was filled to near capacity. Outside the auditorium, Amnesty International set-up a table for a petition to the City of Regina’s council to have an inquiry of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Inside the auditorium, a teary-eyed introduction was followed by an offering of tobacco, a prayer, a song, and a starblanket for Dr. Blackstock. She proceeded to argue that social services for Aboriginals living on-reserve, and on-reserve schools in particular, are drastically underfunded and need an injection of federal funding.
“Equality in a country as wealthy as Canada should be the floor – not the ceiling,” Blackstock said.
There are more than 100 on-reserve schools in Canada that are unsafe for students to be in.
Dr. Blackstock is leading the charge in a legal battle with the Government of Canada. She alleges that Canada’s failure to provide equitable and culturally based child welfare services to on-reserve Aboriginal children is discrimination on the basis of race and ethnic origin, pursuant to the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The Government of Canada contests that funding is not a service they must provide. Rather, they provide funding to social services branches within the civil service and the manners in which those branches conduct their resources are not the direct responsibility of the Government of Canada.
“Some First Nations’ children need to be in foster care, but not at 12 times the rate of everyone else.” Blackstock said.
Furthermore, the federal government maintains that it is not fair to compare the provincial funding that provincial social services provide to non-Aboriginals with the federal funding that federal social services provide to on-reserve Aboriginals.
Despite these arguments, the reality remains that on-reserve Aboriginal children receive 22 per cent less funding from social services than provincially funded urban area children.
“We need to question that racism,” Blackstock said.
Canada is an Aboriginal word that means village. Whether or not our national village will decide that some of our most systemically disadvantaged youth deserve an increase in social services’ funding remains to be seen.
Dr. Blackstock’s case is currently before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal with a decision expected in April 2015.
Dr. Cindy Blackstock is based at the University of Alberta and is the author of more than 60 publications focusing on the systemic disadvantage of Aboriginal children in Canada. She is also an Expert Advisor to UNICEF on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
To become involved on campus with Aboriginal issues, visit the Aboriginal Student’s Centre and Indigenous Students Association
These two groups are taking action in Dr. Cindy Blackstock’s “Have A Heart For First Nations Children” letter-writing campaign.
For more about Dr. Blackstock’s case, visit www.fnwitness.ca
These two groups are taking action in Dr. Cindy Blackstock’s “Have A Heart For First Nations Children” letter-writing campaign. Their involvement is conducted under the Neekaneekwak Aboriginal Leadership Program. To learn more about the campaign, visit www.fncaringsociety.com/have-a-heart