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Perpetuating colonial practices within child welfare.

Updated: Nov 13, 2021

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,

Many holidays can be difficult for people who have suffered trauma, and Thanksgiving is no different. Many families gathered around their kitchen tables this weekend and gave thanks. Some families said a prayer to a Christian God, and others thanked the Creator. For survivors of residential school, sixties scoop, and the foster care system, giving thanks may have triggered negative memories such as religious indoctrination, being separated from family, or feeling the loss of traditional practices. For some survivors, Thanksgiving represents a complicated contradiction of giving thanks for the bounty of the fall harvest, yet feeling sorrow for the loss of their traditions and ceremonies.

First, take a moment and imagine a Thanksgiving celebration with your family. The smells of familiar food emanating from the kitchen, the comfort of a hug from your favorite auntie, and the sound of children laughing and playing all around you. The feelings of joy and peace are abundant. The Creator is good.

Now, imagine a Thanksgiving without children. They were taken away by an officer (from a state you don’t recognize), and placed in a residential school or a foster home. The laughter and joy is gone, and your sense of peace has dissipated. Instead despair, heartache and sadness surround you. How can you give thanks during a time like this?

In the second story, the Canadian state imposed its child welfare system upon Indigenous families because the state believed it knew better. But did they? Indigenous peoples have always had their own form of child welfare systems, known as kinship care, which are grounded in tradition and community.[1] According to Blackstock et al (2006), “For thousands of years, Indigenous communities successfully used traditional systems of care to ensure the safety and well-being of their children.”[2]

The use of kinship care ensured the child remained within the family, by allowing relatives to care for the child. However, the colonial system has largely disregarded kinship care and instead removed Indigenous children from their homes. According to Blackstock et al (2006), “this has resulted in many Indigenous communities viewing child welfare as an agent of colonialism rather than a support to the safety and well-being of Indigenous children and youth. Colonialism, in this sense, refers to the process of claiming superiority over the original peoples, deliberately usurping their cultural ways, and employing child custody as a means of extinguishing the Indigenous culture.” [3]

Whether deliberate or not, the funding provided to Indigenous communities to operate their own child service programs are inadequately funded. In fact, despite the implementation of Jordan’s Principle in 2007,[4] inadequate funding has perpetuated racial discrimination against Indigenous children as evidenced by a recent Federal Court decision.[5] This decision found that the Canadian government was deliberately underfunding child welfare services on reserves and were in fact refusing to implement Jordan’s Principle.[6]

Stay tuned over the next few days as we dive deeper into Jordan’s Principle and the recent Federal Court decision.

Until next time,

Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG

Artist: Christi Belcourt: Aabaakawad Anishinaabewin: Aabaakawad-AnishinaabewinWeb.jpg (1440×1111) (

[1] National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, “Indigenous Children and the

Child Welfare System in Canada” (2017), online(pdf): National Collaborating Cenre for Aboriginal Health <>

[2] Cindy Blackstock, Terry Cross, John George, Ivan Brown, and Jocelyn Formsma, “Reconciliation in Child Welfare: Touchstones of Hope for Indigenous Children, Youth and Families” (March 2006), online (pdf): First Nations Child and Family Caring Society <> at 6.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Indigenous Services Canada, “A Review of Jordan’s Principle” (March 2019), online (pdf): Indigenous Services Canada <,on-reserve%20in%20comparison%20to%20their%20non-First%20Nation%20counterparts>.

[5] Canada (Attorney General) v. First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, 2021 FC 969 (CanLII), <>.

[6] Ibid.

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