Catching up with Cindy Blackstock, 2018 winner of the Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award

Woman with short brown hair standing in from of a blue quilt with three stuffed animals and certificate on table in front of her
Cindy Blackstock, 2018 Winner of the Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award

Thank you for submitting your nominations for the 2022 Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award!

Established by Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada in 2018, the Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award celebrates and recognizes Canadians who are making a positive difference in the lives of children and youth involved with the child welfare system.

While we review this year’s nominations, we’re catching up with past winners to find out what they’re up to now –– and how the award made a difference in the work of the organizations they chose to support.

Cindy Blackstock, 2018 Winner

Cindy Blackstock is the Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and a professor at McGill University’s School of Social Work.

In 2018, Cindy won the inaugural Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award in recognition of her extensive contributions to the advancement of the rights and well-being of Indigenous children in Canada.

A member of the Gitxsan First Nation, Cindy has over 30 years of experience in child protection and Indigenous children’s rights. She played a critical role in mounting a successful human rights challenge to Canada’s inequitable provision of child and family services and failure to implement Jordan’s Principle –– a historic milestone that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of services being provided to First Nations children, youth, and families.

We spoke with Cindy to find out what it meant to her to receive the Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award and how she’s continuing to make a difference today.

What did it mean to you to be selected as the inaugural winner of the Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids Award?

The injustices against First Nations children have been silenced in Canadian conversation for so long, so the recognition afforded by this award really was a collective acknowledgement of those long-standing injustices. To me, it was a signal that these children will never be alone again –– that people will stand with them and activate around them.

When you won this award, you chose to direct your $50,000 grant to We Matter. Why did you choose this organization?

I’m a big believer that First Nations, Métis, and Inuit young people know what they need, and are also very aware of some of the challenges that multi-generational trauma from residential school colonialism and ongoing injustices place upon them. So, whenever they organize and develop an organization like We Matter to really uplift the multigenerational strength of these communities in a way that’s very practical and meaningful to these young people, then I’m all the way behind it.

We Matter is doing extraordinary work for Indigenous youth –– engaging young people, uplifting mental health, getting rid of the stigma of mental health, and really supporting an understanding within mainstream Canadian conversation about the importance of mental health among young people, particularly Indigenous young people. It was a privilege to support their work in that way.

What are some of the most critical current issues relating to Indigenous children’s rights that you think need greater awareness?

Right now, First Nations children continue to experience vast inequalities that are threatening their well-being and their lives. In Northern Canada, for example, there are enormous food insecurity issues, skyrocketing rates of tuberculosis, and a severe lack of access to clean water. As a country, we cannot stand by and allow this to keep happening.

Why should First Nations children have to grow up dreaming about getting a clean glass of water when other Canadian children can grow up dreaming about being the best writer or the best astronaut?

Another major issue is that people generally don’t understand the diversity of the Indigenous community and the unique needs of different groups. For example, the Indian Act only applies to First Nations –– not to Métis or Inuit peoples. But there are many diverse Indigenous communities that face their own challenges, and there needs to be greater awareness and education around what those needs are and how to address them.

What are you and your team currently working on at First Nations Child and Family Caring Society?

One of our biggest priorities is costing out all these inequalities –– what they look like and how significantly they’re impacting the lives of First Nations children, so that people can better understand the scope of the problem and what needs to change. We’re also focused on educating children, youth, and families all over the country about Canada’s past relationship with First Nations children and how we can address the ongoing injustices that remain today as a result of that history.

And we’re continuing to work on holding the federal government accountable to acting on the Human Rights Tribunal decision from 2016 that found the government discriminated against First Nations children by inequitably funding child welfare.

When we can walk into a community and a kid can say, “My life is a little better today than it was yesterday,” then we’ll know things are moving in the right direction.

Learn more about the 2022 Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award and watch out for an announcement about this year’s winner!