Reconciliation and Indigenous relations

Cover of The Other Side of the DorrThe child welfare sector, including our agency, has a long and challenging history with the Indigenous community. We acknowledge the mistakes of the distant and recent past and are actively working towards reconciliation. Read below to understand what work is happening to build bridges and repair relationships between the child welfare sector and the Indigenous community.

 

It starts with an apology

On October 1-3, 2017, the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies hosted a gathering called “A Moment on the Path” at Geneva Park and Rama First Nation to acknowledge and apologize for the harmful role child welfare has played historically, and continues to play, in the lives of Ontario Indigenous children, families, and communities.

The gathering brought together representatives, leaders, and elders from Indigenous communities and Indigenous Child and Family Services with leaders from Ontario’s non-Indigenous child welfare agencies. The days spent at Geneva Park were deeply rooted in ceremony, with sweat lodges, a sacred fire, drums, lamp lighting, sunrise ceremonies, and prayers throughout, generously offered by Indigenous elders and leaders from across the province.

The apology that was offered can be seen by clicking here.

 

What’s happening in Hamilton

According to the last census, there are approximately 17,000 Indigenous people in Hamilton. Currently, Indigenous children are over-represented in both our agency and the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) of Hamilton.

Representatives from the Hamilton Indigenous community, the CAS of Hamilton, and our agency have formed the Indigenous Child Welfare Collaborative, which is co-chaired by Nicky Bomberry from the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre, Josh Dockstator from our agency, and a representative from the CAS of Hamilton. Together we are developing protocols and service agreements that govern how the Children’s Aid Societies will work with the Indigenous community in carrying out their child welfare mandates. Implementation of these protocols and agreements are intended to eliminate the over-representation of Indigenous children in our agencies, improve the outcomes for Indigenous children we serve, and ensure that Indigenous children and families that come into contact with our agencies are served in a culturally appropriate manner, with the direct involvement of Indigenous service agencies.

We expect the new protocols and service agreements to be finalized in fall 2019.

 

What’s happening at CCAS of Hamilton

In 2018, we hired Josh Dockstator as our first Reconcilation Lead, to lead our work with the Indigenous community. Josh is a member of the Oneida of the Thames First Nation in London, Ontario. He did his undergraduate work in Indigenous Studies.  From 2004-2010 Josh worked for the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board as the Coordinator and Youth Worker in the NYA:WEH program which broke down barriers for Indigenous students in Hamilton to reach their full potential and go on to post-secondary education. Most recently, Josh worked as the Indigenous Student Counsellor at McMaster University in the Indigenous Student Services Department.

Josh is also leading our Indigenous Employee Resource Group, a group of CCAS staff who identify and implement learning and training opportunities for our staff about Indigenous issues. For example, they produced a guide to Indigenous services in Hamilton in 2018, which can be accessed by clicking here.

We continue to build relationships with Indigenous organizations and individuals as part of our ongoing commitment. Our services must recognize multi-generational trauma and incorporate the healing power of community and heritage, while respecting and honouring the culture, needs and values of Indigenous families and communities. We have been critically reflecting on the feedback and learnings from Indigenous communities about the negative impact that the current system has on Indigenous children, families and communities and working toward meeting the nine commitments made through the sector’s Apology to the Indigenous community.

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