Zahura Ahmed, Congress student blogger
What kind of nation are we? What kind of nation do we want to be in the next 150 years? Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada, gave a compelling keynote at the “Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future” forum on Wednesday morning. Blackstock delivered a searing critique of government and academic inaction despite a history of studies, reports, Commissions, and recommendations. Approaching reconciliation through the lens of child welfare, she argued that in order to understand reconciliation, we must understand the Canadian state’s long history of placing itself between First Nations children and their families.
Blackstock stated that we too often perceive ourselves as benevolent, and in doing so we make excuses for our acts of omission as well as our minimal acts of justice. We are aware of the problems that Indigenous communities face, yet we fail to hold the government and society to account to correct such injustices. Blackstock urged individuals to be morally courageous and to embody this spirit in their work- to speak out against the status quo when they know that something is wrong.
Blackstock recounted the horrors faced by children in residential schools, and how this painful legacy is still haunting Indigenous peoples. She pointed to the importance of remembering the humanity in such processes like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and warned against becoming satisfied with the slow pace of government action to correct inequality. She concluded by highlighting the need to decolonize our universities, stating “I no longer need to walk into a Native Studies building to know who I am- you need to come to me and learn about us too.”