Whitehorse Daily Star

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PUSHING FOR PROGRESS – Cindy Blackstock, seen Tuesday afternoon in Whitehorse, would like to see Canada implement a ‘Spirit Bear Plan,’ which would calculate the total cost of inequality to First Nations families and children.

First Nations suffer resources shortfall: Blackstock

Renowned child welfare activist Cindy Blackstock says the Yukon’s First Nations are lacking the resources they require to actualize self- determination and make a real difference in children’s lives.

By Gabrielle Plonka on January 29, 2020

Renowned child welfare activist Cindy Blackstock says the Yukon’s First Nations are lacking the resources they require to actualize self- determination and make a real difference in children’s lives.

“I’ve been really inspired by a lot of the good work that’s being done in the Yukon,” Blackstock told reporters Tuesday afternoon in Whitehorse.

“I see the potential that’s there, if they had the adequate resources to draw down that power in areas such as children’s services and education.”

Blackstock, who is of B.C.’s Gitxsan First Nation, is the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (The Caring Society).

It’s responsible for filing a human rights complaint which led to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordering compensation to youth and families harmed by the child welfare system.

This week, a new culturally-specific training program for family support workers launched in Whitehorse (see coverage, p. 5). Blackstock travelled to the territory to address the 18 students of that program.

She made herself available to media Tuesday to discuss the Yukon, the importance of family support workers and her vision for the future.

The visit was important, in part, because family support workers are pivotal to child welfare, Blackstock said. Proper support is one way to heal the damage done by generations of discrimination.

“Part of that remedy (for inequality) is putting people on the ground, like family support workers, who are able to help families through that trauma and keep kids safely in their communities,” she said.

First Nations children have frequently been separated, unnecessarily, from their families and communities, Blackstock noted.

National data say 90 per cent of children who are taken from their families were not experiencing physical harm at the time of their removal.

“That’s not to say there aren’t other forms of harm, but that is to suggest that things like family support workers would go a long way to keeping a lot of those kids at home,” she said.

She added there is marked improvement for children in the territory thanks to funding allocated by Jordan’s Principle, a federal initiative aiming to provide equal access to services for First Nations youth.

“It’s just a glimpse, and we need to see more of it,” she said.

She is “not convinced” the federal government is providing an adequate amount of prevention services, such as meeting the needs of children in their communities, she added. This requires more flexibility in resource allocation.

Blackstock said the provision of funding should co-exist with conversations about jurisdiction and self-determination. This is because you can’t successfully implement one without the other.

“If you don’t have resources to implement your own laws and to develop those laws, then you don’t really have jurisdiction. It becomes kind of a paper tiger,” she said.

Blackstock is seeking a more holistic approach to conversations about child welfare. She referenced the Marshall Plan, an American post- war initiative for rebuilding western Europe after it was ravaged by the Second World War.

She wants to see a similarly comprehensive and expeditious plan for addressing the inequalities faced by First Nations children.

She suggested the Canadian government is stuck in a cycle of discrimination and apology, from residential schools to the ’60s 

“We have to ensure the government reforms itself in ways that stop that discrimination, and creating that ‘Marshall Plan’ is part of it,” she said.

Blackstock is still litigating with Canada on the issue of compensation for families affected by the child welfare system.

In 2016, the Human Rights Tribunal found Canada to be racially discriminating against children and ordered it to stop. Blackstock told media the Canadian government is now facing nine non-compliance orders.

Seeing Canada comply with the tribunal order, and pay compensation, is one of two goals for the upcoming years, she added.

Secondly, she wants to see Canada implement a “Spirit Bear Plan”, which would calculate the total cost of inequality to First Nations families and children.

“Let’s see the big ticket of that, when you add up shortfalls in education, early childhood (and) other programs.”

Despite these hefty objectives, Blackstock gives the impression of optimism. She sees hope in the new generation.

On Feb. 13, The Caring Society’s Have a Heart Day will see 2,000 children write letters to local politicians, demanding movement toward equality. The wide participation of these events hint at the potential for a better future.

“If we can raise a generation of non-Indigenous children who don’t tolerate this discrimination, and a generation of First Nations kids who know they’re worth the money, then the problem is solved,” she said.

“That’s what really gives me hope: is that the First Nations kids aren’t alone anymore.”

Comments (11)

Up 9 Down 0

I. Kant-Bleevette on Feb 4, 2020 at 12:46 pm

@ Yukon Max - You forgot the often used Dial A Minister [DAM] program. If you are loathe to put in the effort of filling out forms just dial away to your MLA to have “your” problem solved today.

Yes... That’s right... The MLA Way... The leading industry experts in avoiding personal responsibility and accountability can help you now! Do you have an addiction? Are you in trouble with the law? Are you not getting what you want in life? Make it political!!!

Up 22 Down 0

YukonMax on Feb 4, 2020 at 8:04 am

Try one of these first...before creating another pot of our money.Assisted Living Program
Band Support Funding
Capital Facilities and Maintenance Program
Circuit Rider Training Program
Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program
Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program
Community Opportunity Readiness
Contaminated Sites Management Program
Education Partnerships Program
Elementary and Secondary Education Program
Emergency Management Assistance Program
Employee Benefits
Family Violence Prevention Program
First Nation Adapt Program
First Nation and Inuit Cultural Education Centres Program
First Nation Infrastructure Fund
First Nation On-Reserve Housing Program
First Nation Student Success Program
First Nations and Inuit Skills Link Program
First Nations and Inuit Summer Work Experience Program
First Nations Child and Family Services Program
First Nations Land Management Regime
High-Cost Special Education Program
Housing Subsidy Program in British Columbia
On-reserve Income Assistance Program
Indigenous Representative Organizations - Basic organizational capacity funding
Indigenous Community-Based Climate Monitoring Program
Inuit Cultural Education Centres Grant Program
Lands and Economic Development Services Program
Nation Rebuilding Program
New Approach for Housing Support in British Columbia
New Paths for Education Program
Northern Contaminants Program
Northern Contaminated Sites Program
Northern Participant Funding Program
Northern Responsible Energy Approach for Community Heat and Electricity Program
Nutrition North Canada
Post-Secondary Partnerships Program
Post-Secondary Student Support Program
Professional and Institutional Development Program
Reserve Lands and Environment Management Program
Specific Claims Tribunal of Canada funding
Strategic Partnerships Initiative
Tribal Council Funding
University and College Entrance Preparation Program
Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples
Just saying...

Up 14 Down 0

Accounting 101 on Feb 4, 2020 at 3:45 am

What happened to the untold, unexpected millions that Ron Veale had come up with for First Nations about a year ago? Where did that disappear to?

Up 43 Down 2

drum on Feb 1, 2020 at 6:12 pm

Follow the money. How many First Nations actually show where our taxpayers money goes?
The Princes and their families seem to have a great lifestyle while the peasants do with little.

Up 61 Down 4

North_of_60 on Jan 30, 2020 at 4:58 pm

There is no 'resource shortfall', but there is a huge income disparity in most aboriginal communities. If your clan is in the leadership positions you live like royalty and the rest live like serfs. Our tax money goes to the band administrators and disappears; there is no accountability or transparency.

Up 64 Down 8

Groucho d'North on Jan 30, 2020 at 12:57 pm

I read this article three times to try and better understand what Ms. Blackstock's expert opinion is. It seems she is worried that aboriginal young people are not "self-determining" their future because there are not enough resources to help them.
Elsewhere on this website is another article explaining that there is a problem with aboriginal young people not attending school. A school where they are to learn the various skills required to live a productive self-determined life in our modern society.

I often wonder who instills the First Nations racism young aboriginals display, It's easy to look into the past and assign blame for what you believe went wrong with your lot in life. Residential schools? The sixties scoop? White Privilege?

...National data say 90 per cent of children who are taken from their families were not experiencing physical harm at the time of their removal.
“That’s not to say there aren’t other forms of harm, but that is to suggest that things like family support workers would go a long way to keeping a lot of those kids at home,” she said..."

Could part of that harm be fostering an on-going resentment to colonials who represent all the evil First Nations speak about?
As wiser people than I have said, "Racism is taught."

Up 65 Down 6

Capitan on Jan 30, 2020 at 12:33 pm

I think when she says they need more resources, she might be talking about training and positions, maybe not so much money. But if she is saying they need more money, there seems to be a lot of money going towards First Nations. At what point are FN governments responsible for the choices they make about where it's going?

Up 73 Down 11

Dave on Jan 30, 2020 at 12:23 pm

So let me get this straight. We aren't supposed to extract any resources to actually produce monetary value for the tax base, but the naysayers against any industry still want the free money to flow into their pockets unabated? Nice little fairy tale world going on here.

Up 65 Down 11

JC on Jan 29, 2020 at 5:45 pm

A "Martial Plan"! A rebuilding ---------? How much is that going to cost and who is going to pay? Every Idea Blackstock has come up with comes with monetary price tag. For goodness sake, where is the evidence of results of all the billions of dollars of tax money from the various governments over the generations? It seems every few years, somebody comes along and wants to start all over again. If all the past efforts were a dismal failure, does she and the other experts now have a final plan that is going to work? Personally, I'm getting tired of all this finger pointing and blaming. And one more thing, racism is a two way street. I've experienced enough of it myself.

Up 71 Down 10

JC on Jan 29, 2020 at 5:33 pm

"a generation of First Nations kids who know they're worth the money". Just what does that mean? I worked and served my country for 61 years. I always knew that I was worth the money. But I still had to pay taxes all those years out of it.

Up 70 Down 8

JC on Jan 29, 2020 at 5:30 pm

The leaders are getting millions of dollars a year of taxpayer money. Where are the adequate resources. Let's start there. Follow the money.

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