What about Indigenous kids in Palestine, Prof. Blackstock?

Cindy Blackstock has done great work on behalf of Indigenous children. But her recent call for “a lot more” academics “willing to get into trouble” rings hollow considering her role at McGill and anti-Palestinian associations.

Blackstock has done as much as anyone to highlight and redress discrimination against indigenous children. She’s helped secure healthcare rights for indigenous children and a massive federal settlement for Indigenous welfare.

As such, progressives rightly celebrate her. Many lefty academics shared a recent University Affairs profile in which Blackstock says “academia and activism should co-exist” and calls for hiring “a lot more people who are willing to get into trouble.” The professor in McGill University’s school of social work added, “Academic freedom provides us with a space to stand in the wings of discrimination in a way that’s not available to other people.”

Blackstock’s employer has repeatedly celebrated her recently. In December the McGill Reporter published a story headlined “Cindy Blackstock awarded SSHRC’s [Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council] highest honour”. Two weeks ago, Blackstock was the keynote speaker at McGill’s Bravo Gala and last year she was awarded McGill’s Principal’s Prize for Public Engagement.

During the seven years Blackstock has been at McGill’s school of social work the university administration has waged a campaign against Palestinian solidarity. After 71% of undergraduate students voted for a March 2022 resolution committing the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) to take a stand against Israel’s system of racial discrimination, the administration threatened to terminate its Memorandum of Agreement with SSMU, which regulates fees, use of name and other matters between the university and student union.

In response to the administration’s anti-democratic and anti-Palestinian threats, students organized rallies while 103McGill faculty and staff as well as many alumni, outside groups and internationally recognized individuals signed multiple public letters. On the eve of Roger Waters’ July performance at Montreal’s Bell Centre, the rock legend participated in a widely covered event supporting the McGill student group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR). A few days after B’nai Brith announced it was funding a lawsuit against SSMU and SPHR McGill Waters even wrote a column defending the students headlined, “On human rights, McGill University, students and free speech”.

To the best of my knowledge Blackstock has remained silent about the administration’s attacks on student democracy and Palestine solidarity. While unfortunate, maybe this could be justified on the need to stay focused considering the devastation inflicted on First Nations. But Blackstock has lent her name to an aggressively anti-Palestinian organization set up by Canada’s leading anti-Palestinian.

Blackstock is a senior fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, which was founded by Irwin Cotler. The former McGill law professor continues to chair it and his daughter Gila is its CEO.

As I detailed in this two-year-old article that mentioned Blackstock, the Raoul Wallenberg Centre has taken anti-Palestinian positions and generally promotes human rights only where it serves the US Empire. It’s hard to believe she’s unaware of the Centre’s statements and activities or Cotler’s positions.

It’s sad that Blackstock has aligned with a pro-apartheid organization. It’s also hypocritical of her to call on academics to “get into trouble” while failing to challenge flagrant injustice on her own campus.

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