L07(b) - Reflecting on the Harmful Legacies of Child Welfare Institutions and Indian Residential Schools
Date: Jun 4 | Time: 03:15pm to 04:45pm | Location: SWING 221
Chair/Président/Présidente : Sarah Munawar (University of British Columbia)
Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Rebecca Hall (Queen's University)
Engaging with Indigenous Genocide in Canada: A Survey of Elected Officials in Canada on Indian Residential Schools and their Aftermath: David MacDonald (University of Guelph), Brian Budd (University of Guelph ), Mark Mitchell (University of Guelph)
Abstract: Indigenous-Settler relations in Canada are passing through a unique moment – a period when the full impact of the Indian Residential Schools (IRS) has come to light. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) concluded that cultural genocide had been committed in the IRS system in their 2015 Final Report. The work of the TRC has helped to mainstream reconciliation talk within political discourse at the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government. However, despite these developments, the Canadian government has yet to add the IRS system to its current list of official recognized genocides. Canada currently recognizes seven genocides, through bills passed provincially and/or federally, and these genocides are commemorated in memorials, commemorative days, educational material, and in museums funded by government. In October, 2016, a bill was presented to Parliament to create an IRS memorial day and to recognize the schools as a violation of the UNGC. To gauge the perception of elected officials regarding genocide and cultural genocide, we sent a detailed survey to 1,150 elected officials. The primary purpose of the survey was to gauge the perceptions of elected officials on claims of cultural genocide and genocide in the Indian Residential Schools. This survey builds on a previous one undertaken by MacDonald and Mitchell in 2011, whose findings were presented at CPSA. In this paper we present the larger discussion of genocide in the residential schools and outline the context of the survey, our methodology, our findings, and their potential implications for academic and policy
The New Residential Schools: Child Welfare and Prison in Canada: Teddy Harrison (University of Toronto)
Abstract: While prisons have been called the new residential schools, that title more rightly belongs to Canada’s child welfare system, which currently removes more children from indigenous families than residential schools ever did. Current provincially-run child welfare systems clearly do not work well for indigenous children: children taken into care face numerous problems, including low educational attainment and high rates of involvement in the criminal justice system. However, past attempts to create indigenous-run child welfare systems have not solved these problems. This paper argues that creating a legitimate system will require a degree of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous approaches to the care of children. In particular, there must be a role for parents, extended families, indigenous governments, and the state to have input on decisions about the best interests of children. Although the state is poorly placed to have specific knowledge about children or to directly provide care, it is well-placed to provide an accountability framework and the necessary resources to ensure children can succeed. Extended families, on the other hand, are better placed to make those specific decisions and provide care, if they are provided with the relevant support by local and state authorities. Provincial child welfare agencies must learn from and work with indigenous approaches to child care in order to avoid replicating the assimilationist effects of past state-run child welfare institutions (including residential schools, the sixties scoop, and more recent child apprehensions).
Miyo-Ohpikāwasowin-Raising our Children in a Good Way: Disrupting Indigenous Child Removal Through Cultural Continuity: Denali Youngwolfe (University of British Columbia)
Abstract: Indigenous children are the fastest growing demographic within both the Canadian state and its child welfare population. Policies that directly impact the lives of Indigenous children continue to be shaped by the settler-colonial foundations of the Canadian state. My research explores the structural causes of overrepresentation that disproportionately expose Indigenous children to child welfare interventions, and highlights disruptions to this pattern of child removals through a case study of the Lac La Ronge Indian Child and Family Services Agency (LLR-ICFSA) in northern Saskatchewan. Drawing on parallel literature on the efficacy of cultural continuity as a hedge against suicide I illustrate the disruptive capacity of cultural engagement in a child welfare context. Findings indicate that regionally specific cultural philosophies and practices, specifically, kinship care and land-based engagement, offer a model from which to develop best practices for Indigenous child welfare, and transition child welfare from a system of cultural genocide to one of cultural continuity.
Responsibility, Accountability, and the Investigative Mandate of the TRC: Matt James (University of Victoria)
Abstract: Existing scholarship has tended to focus on the TRC’s high-profile National Events (James 2012; Moran 2016), while recent public discussion has revolved around the commission’s 94 Calls to Action. But the TRC was also asked to “create as complete an historical record as possible of the [Indian Residential School] system and legacy.” This paper addresses the commission’s investigative mandate by studying its 1939-2000 history of residential schooling, asking how this volume discharges the traditional core function of a truth commission: making authoritative judgments about causal and moral responsibility for injustice (Hayner 2001). My provisional findings are as follows. The report portrays “Canada” as a largely disaggregated and abstract perpetrator without leaders and influencers. Those individuals who do appear in the report tend to be school leaders, church administrators, and relatively low-level Indian Affairs personnel, whom we encounter primarily as voices of concern about insufficiencies and even outrages in residential schooling. This diffuse and unsatisfactory account of causal and moral responsibility reflects restrictions in the TRC’s investigative mandate and the self-exculpatory tendencies of officials when leaving paper trails for their superiors. But it also reflects something that scholars are beginning to understand about historical justice itself: official apologies, truth commissions, and inquiries cannot provide the last word on injustice; real accountability demands engaging the limitations of existing responses to develop deeper understandings of responsibility and wrong (James and Stanger-Ross 2018).