The 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.
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.
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. 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.
Our Indigenous Employee Resource Group, a group of CCAS staff who identify and implement learning and training opportunities for our staff about Indigenous issues, 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.