Tireless advocate for Indigenous children honoured with key to city of Winnipeg

A tireless advocate for Indigenous children received the key to the city of Winnipeg on a day that marks one of her most significant achievements.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, received the honour on Spirit Bear Day, which brings attention to Jordan’s Principle, named after Jordan River Anderson of Norway House Cree Nation in northern Manitoba.

Blackstock remarked on the significance of the day after receiving the key from Mayor Brian Bowman in a ceremony at city hall.

“It was pouring rain yesterday, but whenever we do something important for Jordan’s Principle, somehow the skies are always crystal blue, so Jordan brought the good weather for us today,” she said.

Jordan River Anderson was born in Winnipeg in 1999 with severe disabilities that required intensive medical care. 

When Jordan was two, doctors said he could go to a special home where he could receive care, but because of funding disputes between the federal and provincial governments, when he died at age five, he had never spent a night at home.

Jordan River Anderson was born in Winnipeg and died without ever spending a night at home, due to funding disputes between federal and provincial governments over his care. (Submitted by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs)

Blackstock advocated for Anderson’s care while he was alive, and after his death, she pushed governments to adopt the principle named for him, which states that any service that is ordinarily accessible to non-Indigenous children must be available to all without delay or denial. 

May 10, known as Spirit Bear Day in Manitoba, is the anniversary of the original 2016 implementation deadline given by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for all governments to implement Jordan’s Principle, although it took years for it to be fully implemented.

“This is the city where Jordan River Anderson was in hospital at Health Sciences Centre, where his family really created the legacy of Jordan’s Principle, and it’s been a place of so much advocacy for Jordan’s Principle,” Blackstock said, speaking to reporters after the ceremony.

Before giving the key to Blackstock, Bowman spoke about the help she has given to the city in its work.

“Dr. Blackstock has been and continues to be a caring and committed friend to the city of Winnipeg,” he said.

“She has been so generous in sharing her counsel, compassion and wisdom as we set out on our journey of reconciliation.”

Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels also praised Blackstock’s work during the ceremony.

“Our children are sacred. They are gifts from the Creator, and they deserve the best that each and every one of us can do for them every single day. Dr. Cindy Blackstock exemplifies this commitment.”

Blackstock is a member of Gitxsan First Nation, from northern British Columbia.

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