NOSM University appoints Indigenous activist as its inaugural chancellor

By Colleen Romaniuk

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Cindy Blackstock

NOSM University has appointed Cindy Blackstock as its inaugural chancellor.

A member of the Gitxsan and a professor of social work at McGill University, Blackstock is renowned for her contributions as an activist for Indigenous child welfare and family affairs over the last 30 years.

In 1998, she co-founded the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, where she serves as executive director. She is best known for leading the organization’s landmark case against the Canadian government from 2007 to 2016, which argued that social services for children living on First Nations reserves were underfunded and discriminatory.

In 2019, she was invested as a member of the Order of Canada.

Her appointment as NOSM University chancellor was announced Thursday when members of the inaugural board were also announced.

She will be installed as chancellor at NOSM University’s first convocation ceremony on May 26, 2023, to begin a four-year term.

“It is a very humbling privilege to be the very first chancellor of this important university,” said Blackstock at the announcement of her appointment. “I have a lot to do in this role. I serve at your request and I will do everything that I can to bring honour to this amazing endeavour.”

NOSM University was originally established in 2005 as a Northern Ontario medical school, in partnership with Laurentian University in Sudbury and Lakehead Univesity in Thursday. As of 2021, NOSM is an independent institution and the first standalone medical university in Canada.

Blackstock became the frontrunner for the position based on recommendations from community members across Northern Ontario, who were consulted during the university’s restructuring process, according to NOSM president and vice-chancellor, Dr. Sarita Verma.

“We worked tirelessly with this committee and ultimately, this amazing person, this wonderful citizen of the world, this spectacular leader came out on top,” she said. “I hope (she) will be a fixture of our great institution and pave the way for future leaders. (She’s) going to set the standard, but also be a role model for our learners and for all the people who look to her for inspiration in standing up for what needs to be done.”

According to Verma, NOSM University is well-positioned to address many of the problems facing health care across Northern Ontario today.

Blackstock said she is determined to lead the institution in becoming a leader in the region.

“Having skilled, culturally-based physicians available to persons in northern communities throughout Canada is part of ensuring that those health inequalities are addressed,” she said.

“NOSM University is a major part of the solution.”

Also on Thursday, members of the inaugural board of governors were announced.

“Membership of our board is drawn widely to achieve the balance of skills and expertise that are required to enable the board to govern effectively and meets its vision, mission, and strategic goals,” said board chair Joy Warkentin. “I have every confidence in the wisdom, capacity, and leadership of this board, and I’m humbled to sit among them.”

Besides Warkentin, other members – who will begin their terms on Jan. 1 – include:

– Mark Hurst, Vice-Chair.


– John Stenger, Treasurer.


– Dr. Sarita Verma, Ex-Officio Member.


– Craig Abotossaway (Mnaamodzawin Health Services, Mnidoo Mnising).


– Imran Bagha, Elected Learner (NOSM University, Class of 2023).


– John Beaucage (Grand Council Chief, **>First Nations<** of the Anishinabek Nation).


– Angela Carter (CEO, Ka-Na-CHi-Hih Treatment Centre).


– Dr. Kristy Cote, elected staff (NOSM University).


– Mark Hartman (Senior VP, Patient Experience and Digital Transformation).


– Nancy Jacko (retired health care professional).


– Virginia May Katt (Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner, Honorary LLD).


– Ashley Larose (CEO, Science North).


– Sue LeBeau (CEO, West Nipissing General Hospital).


– Dawn Morissette (CEO, Services de sante de Chapleau Health Services).

Shemar Ratner (Nephrologist-Internist, Health Sciences North).

– Susan Soldan (Retired public servant).

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. Colleen Romaniuk is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with



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