Aboriginal Affairs Minister launches probe into Blackstock “spying” affair

The deputy minister of Indian Affairs is investigating whether department officials broke privacy rules in their surveillance of First Nations child advocate Cindy Blackstock.

APTN National News
The deputy minister of Aboriginal Affairs is investigating whether department officials broke privacy rules in their surveillance of First Nations child advocate Cindy Blackstock.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said Thursday during question period that he asked his department’s deputy minister Michael Wernick to investigate the Blackstock “spying” affair.

“I have my deputy minister to report whether privacy rules were respected in this case,” said Duncan, responding to a question from NDP Aboriginal affairs critic Linda Duncan.

Duncan wanted to know why department officials had dug into Blackstock’s Indian status file and other information.

“Why is this government spying on Cindy Blackstock?” said Duncan.

As first reported on APTN National News, the department has amassed a large file on Blackstock, who heads the First Nations Child and Family Caring society, according to documents obtained through the Access to Information Act.

The file contains emails and notes about Blackstock’s personal information, critical briefings on her activities and evidence that department officials looked into her Indian status records.

Blackstock said they looked at her Indian status records twice. The records also contain information on her family, her mother, brothers and sisters.

“They have found it necessary to not only put one employee onto tailing, but if you look at the records there are numerous employees on the government payroll who are being asked to comment on what I am doing or to violate my privacy by going on my personal Facebook pages,” said Blackstock, in a recent interview with APTN National News.

Blackstock has for years been pushing for equity for First Nations children caught up in the welfare system.

In 2007, her organization filed a human rights complaint against the federal government claiming discrimination against First Nation children.

She says the lawsuit changed her relationship with the department. She said she was barred from a departmental meeting she had attended with Ontario chiefs.

“They barred me from the room,” said Blackstock. “And had a security guard guard me during the time I was there.”

The incident led Blackstock to file an Access to Information request about herself, to see what information the department had on her.

It took a year and a half for her to receive the file and, to her surprise, they watched her every move.

“Not only had they been on my personal Facebook page, but they had a government employee go to their home at night and log in as an individual, not as the government of Canada…and go onto my Facebook page and take a snapshot of it and then have that in a government of Canada log,” she said.

Aboriginal Affairs staffers also monitored Blackstock as she made presentations about the state of First Nations child welfare across the country.

The file contains briefing notes with critical details of the topic and her speeches.

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