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.

It Started with the Creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2007

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history, began to be implemented in 2007. One of the elements of the agreement was the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to facilitate reconciliation among former students, their families, their communities and all Canadians. The official mandate (PDF) of the TRC is found in Schedule “N” of the Settlement Agreement which includes the principles that guided the commission in its important work. Between 2007 and 2015, the Government of Canada provided about $72 million to support the TRC’s work. The TRC spent 6 years travelling to all parts of Canada and heard from more than 6,500 witnesses. The TRC also hosted 7 national events across Canada to engage the Canadian public, educate people about the history and legacy of the residential schools system, and share and honour the experiences of former students and their families.

The TRC created a historical record of the residential schools system. As part of this process, the Government of Canada provided over 5 million records to the TRC. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba now houses all of the documents collected by the TRC. In June 2015, the TRC held its closing event in Ottawa and presented the executive summary of the findings contained in its multi-volume final report, including 94 “calls to action”  to further reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous peoples. In December 2015, the TRC released its entire 6-volume final report. All Canadians are encouraged to read the summary or the final report to learn more about the terrible history of Indian Residential Schools and its sad legacy.

Through the work of the TRC, specific calls to action were developed for the child welfare sector. For the full list, please Click Here

As an agency, we are utilizing these calls to action to guide us in providing more culturally appropriate, respectful service to our Indigenous families.

Child Welfare Sector 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. 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 improve the outcomes for children we serve and eliminate the over-representation of Indigenous children in our care.  It is important that we recognize that Indigenous children, youth and families that come into contact with child welfare agencies are best serviced in culturally safe ways facilitated by our Indigenous community partners.  We are working on finalization of new protocols and service agreements.

What’s happening at CCAS of Hamilton

Our Indigenous Employee Resource Group is lead by our Reconciliation Lead Joshua Dockstator. This Employee Resource Group is made up of CCASH staff who are focused on highlighting the barriers within our service delivery system that continue to negatively impact our Indigenous service users.  The ERG has advocated for ongoing mandatory training for all staff, supervisors, Senior Leadership and Board members to understand the legacy of residential schools and the colonial practices that led to the devastation of Indigenous communities.  Members of this ERG actively champion the richness of Indigenous service providers in the Hamilton area.

We continue to build relationships with Indigenous organizations and individuals as part of our ongoing commitment whilst recognizing our role in perpetuating inter-generational trauma and over-representation of Indigenous children and youth within our system of care. Critically reflecting on the ongoing feedback and perspectives from Indigenous communities, is crucial to disrupting our colonial ways of being.