Transcript: How to change systemic racism in Canada | Apr 18, 2019

Cindy faces the camera.

Cindy is in her late forties, with short uneven straight brown hair and wears glasses, a black blouse and a patterned gray blazer with a white flower brooch.

A caption reads "Cindy Blackstock. Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada."

She says I NEVER SAY I'M NOT A RACIST
BECAUSE I WANT TO BE ACCOUNTABLE
IN MY RELATIONSHIPS WITH MY
FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS
AND REALIZE THAT BEING PART OF A
HUMAN COMMUNITY OF DIVERSITY
MEANS THAT WE
ALL NEED TO BE OPEN
AND HOLD OURSELVES ACCOUNTABLE,
AND THAT BEGINS WITH LEARNING.

The title of the show reads "First Things First."

A caption reads "What does racism look like in Canada?"

Cindy says I'M CINDY BLACKSTOCK
AND I COME FROM
THE GITXSAN FIRST NATION
IN NORTHERN BRITISH COLUMBIA.
I GREW UP IN THE BUSH IN
NORTHERN BC IN THE 60S,
AND BACK THEN, YOU GOT, REALLY,
THE CBC IN BLACK AND WHITE,
AND THEN I REMEMBER
WATCHING THE NEWS
AND SEEING PEOPLE
BURNING CROSSES.

Pictures of members of the Ku Klux Klan burning crosses appear.

Cindy says I WAS ABOUT FOUR,
MAYBE FIVE YEARS OLD,
AND I REMEMBER GOING
IN MY SMALL TOWN
AND I WOULD SAY, YOU KNOW,
"WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT
"THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE GHOSTS,
"BURNING CROSSES ON THE LAWNS
OF THESE PEOPLE?"
AND THEY WOULD ALL SAY,
"THAT'S REALLY WRONG
WHAT THEY'RE DOING."
BUT THOSE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE
WHO FELT THAT FIRST NATIONS
WOULD NEVER GROW UP TO BE
MORE THAN A DRUNKEN INDIAN.
AND I SAW THESE PEOPLE,
THIS PUZZLE
ABOUT HOW GOOD PEOPLE,
WHO COULD SEE RACISM
SO CLEARLY IN ANOTHER COUNTRY
WOULD BE COMPLICIT
IN ITS SEEDING IN
THEIR OWN SOCIETY,
AND THAT FUELLED ME
FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE,
TRYING TO FIGURE
OUT THAT PUZZLE.

A news article by Scott Gilmere appears with a headline that read "Canada's race problem? It's even worse than America's."

A highlighted excerpt reads "The Aboriginal population in Canada is treated worse and lives with more hardship than the African-American population."

Cindy says WE HAVE THE SAME THING
GOING ON RIGHT HERE.
THIS IS OUR MISSISSIPPI.
SO, WHAT ARE WE
GONNA DO ABOUT IT?
I FEEL THAT MY MOST
IMPORTANT ROLE IN LIFE,
AND, IN FACT, FOR ALL ADULTS,
IS TO STAND UP FOR KIDS.
YOU KNOW, JUST THIS WEEKEND,
I PICKED UP A LITTLE BABY QUILT.
IN THE MIDDLE SQUARE IT SAYS "JORDAN RIVER ANDERSON."

A clip shows a little boy and a woman that says THERE YOU GO, LOVE THAT SOUND.

Cindy says JORDAN RIVER ANDERSON
WAS A LITTLE BOY
WHO SPENT OVER TWO AND A HALF
YEARS IN THIS HOSPITAL,
NOT BECAUSE HE
NEEDED MEDICAL CARE,
BUT BECAUSE
HE WAS FIRST NATIONS.
HE WAS BORN IN WINNIPEG.
HE HAD SOME COMPLEX
MEDICAL NEEDS,
BUT JORDAN STABILIZED
AFTER TWO YEARS
AND DOCTORS SAID
HE COULD GO HOME,
AND THE GOVERNMENTS COULDN'T
FIGURE OUT WHO SHOULD PAY
BECAUSE OF HIS
FIRST NATIONS STATUS.
SO, WHAT THEY DECIDED IS THEY
WOULD LEAVE HIM IN THE HOSPITAL
WHILE THEY ARGUED OVER
WHO SHOULD PAY.

A caption reads "At five years old, Jordan slipped into a coma and died having never spent a day in a family home."

Cindy says HIS FAMILY ASKED ONE THING...
NEVER LET THIS HAPPEN
TO ANOTHER KID,
BECAUSE IN THAT SAME YEAR,
WE FOUND 393 KIDS IN
THE SAME SITUATION AS JORDAN.
SO, WE DEVELOPED
SOMETHING CALLED
JORDAN'S PRINCIPLE
IN JORDAN'S MEMORY.
IT SAYS FIRST NATIONS KIDS
SHOULD GET PUBLIC SERVICES
WHEN THEY NEED THEM,
FREE OF ANY DISCRIMINATION.
CANADA NEVER IMPLEMENTED IT.
THEY CONSTRUCTED
A DEFINITION SO NARROW,
NO CHILD EVER QUALIFIED.
AND WE HAD SPENT, REALLY,
A GENERATION ARGUING
WITH CANADA,
JUST SO THEY'D TREAT
THESE KIDS FAIRLY.

A clip shows Cindy speaking at the Standing Committee on Finance Meeting, 2016.

Cindy says IN 2007, I STOOD WITH THE
ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS
AND WE HAD TO FILE
A HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLAINT
AGAINST THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
TO GET THEM TO TREAT LITTLE
CHILDREN ON RESERVES EQUALLY
BECAUSE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
WAS SO SUBSTANTIALLY
AND SO CONSCIOUSLY
UNDERFUNDING THESE SERVICES
WITH DIRE RESULTS,
RESULTING IN ANOTHER GENERATION
OF FIRST NATIONS CHILDREN
BEING UNNECESSARILY SEPARATED
FROM THEIR FAMILIES...
A REPETITION OF THE DARK CHAPTER
OF RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS.

Cindy says AND IT WAS ONLY WHEN THE
CANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS TRIBUNAL
PASSED ITS FOURTH NONCOMPLIANCE
ORDER AGAINST CANADA
THAT WE STARTED TO SEE THEM
PROVIDING THOSE CHILDREN
WITH THE SERVICES
THEY'VE NEEDED.
FINALLY, WE'RE STARTING
TO SEE SOME CHANGE,
BUT THAT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH...
IT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME,
IT'S NOT GOOD
ENOUGH FOR THE KIDS...
BECAUSE "WE'RE WORKING ON IT."
IS NOT AN ANSWER
THAT A CHILD WHO'S GETTING
LESS BECAUSE OF THEIR RACE
FROM THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT
WANTS TO HEAR.

The caption changes to "In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found the Canadian government discriminates against First Nations children on the basis of race. Between 2016 and 2018, the federal government approved more than 177,000 requests under Jordan's Principles for services and products, such as wheelchair ramps and hearing aids. The provinces and territories have yet to adopt the principle."

Cindy says I THINK, FUNDAMENTALLY,
THE BEST HOPE FOR THAT
IS NOT CONTINUING TO
LITIGATE AGAINST CANADA...
ALTHOUGH WE WILL DO IT
IF IT'S NECESSARY.

Pictures of people marching on the street appear with the caption "First Nations Child and Family Caring Society Have a heart Day."

Cindy says THE BEST HOPE IS WHEN CANADIANS
STOP NORMALIZING THIS RACISM.
IF YOU LOOK AT THAT
AND YOU THINK,
"THIS ISN'T RIGHT,"
THEN YOU NEED TO GET A HOLD OF
YOUR MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT.
WE OWE JORDAN A GREAT DEBT, AND
WHEN I HOLD THAT BABY QUILT,
I REMEMBER THAT HE WAS A REAL
BOY WHO GAVE US ALL A REAL GIFT
AND AN OBLIGATION
AS PEOPLE IN CANADA
TO MAKE SURE THAT NO CHILD
IS TOLD BY THE
GOVERNMENT OF CANADA,
"NO, YOU'VE GOT TO WAIT.
"YOU'RE FIRST NATIONS,
SO YOU'RE NOT WORTH THE MONEY."
EVERY KID IS WORTH THE MONEY.

Watch: How to change systemic racism in Canada