Today, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced the five winners of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s (SSHRC) 2022 Impact Awards.
McGill’s Cindy Blackstock, one of Canada’s most important social work scholars and an indefatigable advocate for Indigenous children’s rights and welfare, has won the SSHRC Gold Medal, the federal agency’s highest honour. The Gold Medal is awarded to an individual whose sustained leadership, dedication, and originality of thought have inspired students and colleagues alike.
“Cindy Blackstock has devoted her life to helping children journey toward their dreams,” says Martha Crago, Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation. “Her significant contributions to academic thought have validated the ontologies and experiences of First Nations across the country. Her commitment to advancing First Nations children’s rights in Canada will have a positive impact for generations to come. McGill is tremendously proud of her contributions to the University, to Canada, and to the world.”
A member of the Gitksan First Nation, Blackstock is a Professor in McGill’s School of Social Work and the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. She was recently named Chancellor of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) University.
Blackstock has devoted decades of work to changing the state of First Nations child welfare in Canada, saying that children remind her to defeat anger and injustice in society through love. Her academic research focuses on inequities in First Nations’ public and voluntary sector services and the over-representation of First Nations children in the welfare system. She has worked tirelessly to develop policy interventions to address these issues. She led the landmark human rights case, Jordan’s Principle, that has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in new child welfare prevention services, as well as the delivery of nearly $800,000 in health, education and social services and support for First Nations children.
The litigation has resulted in over 20 legal orders issued by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal and resulted in a ground-breaking decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which found that Canada was racially discriminating against 165,000 First Nations children.
Colleagues have described how when confronted with a problem, Blackstock convenes people to create a path forward. “Professor Blackstock is an extraordinary example of a publicly engaged social work scholar who has brought together research evidence and steadfast public advocacy to successfully challenge discriminatory access to social services for First Nations children and families,” said Nico Trocmé, Director of the School of Social Work and the Philip Fisher Chair in Social Work. “This Gold Medal demonstrates SSHRC’s commitment to ensuring that impact is assessed by more than citation counts,” he added. “The McGill School of Social Work is fortunate to have such an inspiring professor and deeply committed colleague.”
Ted Hewitt, President of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, said of this year’s prize winners that, “…each made tremendous contributions to their fields in the social sciences and humanities, and we celebrate their accomplishments and ongoing work today. Their work illustrates how social sciences and humanities research is key to understanding people and society, both past and present, so that we can shape a better future.”
Award recipients will be celebrated during a special ceremony this evening in Ottawa.