The world can be a complicated, intolerant and trying place, but you must carry the love of this day forward with you, Cindy Blackstock told graduates at the Wednesday morning session of Western’s 307th Convocation.
“Love is more powerful than hate. Light is more powerful than darkness. Knowledge is far more powerful than ignorance,” Blackstock said. “We must, and we can, with all the strength and love that is in this room, defeat intolerance and rise up to become the examples for next generation of children that we all hoped we could be. A world full of love, a world full of peace and a world where difference, brought together in a single light, makes the world’s dream a possibility.”
Blackstock spoke to graduates from the Faculty of Education, Faculty of Information & Media Studies and School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the Wednesday, June 22, morning session of Western’s 307th Convocation.
Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, upon Blackstock in being internationally recognized as a leader and tireless work to ensure culturally based equity for Aboriginal children and their families.
Blackstock, a member of Gitxsan Nation, is the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. She was instrumental in the landmark Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling this past January over child welfare services. After nearly a decade-long battle, the Tribunal ruled that the Canadian government’s inequitable provision of child welfare services to 163,000 First Nations children living on reserves was racial discrimination.
As a result of the ruling, the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs was ordered to cease its discriminatory practices with regards to the First Nations Child and Family Services Program and take measures to properly implement Jordan’s Principle. Jordan’s Principle is a child first principle which calls on the government to pay for services that First Nations children need or should have access to before they get lost in bureaucratic processes and delays.
In her citation, Western Education professor emerita Rebecca Coulter said in all that Blackstock does, the interests of First Nations children are uppermost in her mind.
“She is a consummate educator and public intellectual,” Coulter said. “She continues to shed light on Indigenous issues as an expert witness, a political strategist, a lobbyist and a voice of protest. The breadth, depth and volume of her work is magnificent. With courage and tenacity, dedication and determination, Blackstock will continue to fight for justice for First Nations children, their families and communities.”
In addition to an extensive publication record, Blackstock is also an associate professor in the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta and a commissioner for the Pan American Health Organization study on health equity and inequity.
She has received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for public service, the Canadian Association of Social Workers Outstanding National Service Award, was an Honorary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and was named one of the 16 most important female human rights activists by the Nobel Women’s Initiative.
She was previously awarded honorary degrees from the University of Northern British Columbia, Thompson Rivers University and the University of Saskatchewan.