Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 1: Child Welfare (1-5)

Carleton University School of Social Work

May 22, 2024

Welcome to the Carleton School of Social Work, where we teach, study, and carry out research into the profession of social work and, specifically, social work practice in the areas of social policy, community work and clinical interventions with individuals, families and groups. The School of Social Work at Carleton University has a longstanding commitment to social justice that is rooted in its founding of the structural approach to social work. This unwavering commitment underpins our teaching, our research, and our extensive engagement with communities and organizations locally, nationally, and internationally.

School of Social Work Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

Indigenization, Decolonization and Reconciliation Committee

The profession of Social work in Canada recognizes the need to change the status quo in social work education. The School of Social Work at Carleton University is committed to change and has been steadily working towards transforming our department. The Report on the Decolonizing, Indigenizing and Reconciliation Social Work Committee Spring 2020 has established key priorities for its work.

  1. To engage students, faculty, contract instructors, administrators and community partners to develop a common understanding of the need to address reconciliation with Indigenous peoples at the School of Social Work, and to work toward involving as many of these groups as possible in doing the work of reconciliation;
  2. To support the integration of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing into the curriculum of the School’s programs. This means that course content, pedagogies, methods for instruction and methods for assessment will shift, over time.
  3. Decolonize existing curricula by ensuring that educational materials are presented critically and with their histories and context, that pedagogies are carefully selected and implemented with consideration for cultural relevance and political implications, and both methods for instruction and methods for assessment are selected with reference to understandings of excellence that assess academic learning and professional qualifications in ways that include Indigenous ways of knowing, learning, and practice, in a Good way.
  4. Shape an environment within the School’s learning spaces that is truly welcoming and affirming to all students. This will be achieved through meaningful incorporation of representations that honour and acknowledge the land and the peoples of this territory. It includes ensuring that our School environment reflects the peoples living in Canada and their histories, cultures, and traditions in affirming ways.
  5. Building on university level policies, we will develop protocols that guide the School’s relationships and activities with Indigenous peoples, Indigenous knowledges, and Indigenous ways of knowing to ensure respect and dignity and to guard against appropriation and/or other harms.
  6. Contribute to knowledge that can support post-secondary reconciliation efforts at the departmental, faculty and university-wide level.

Pledge of Reconciliation

In 2017 a group of MSW students developed a pledge of reconciliation that they encouraged social work practitioners and social work students to sign to support the ongoing work of the profession to reconcile with Indigenous communities:

  • I will remember the Social Work profession’s past harms against Indigenous peoples in my daily practice and remain ever vigilant against future harms.
  • I will commit to being reflexive in my practice and being aware of my own cultural/historical location.
  • I will acknowledge my own limitations, remembering not to position myself as an “expert”, but to remain open and curious. I will embrace situations of uncertainty, will educate myself, and will seek guidance from Indigenous leaders, the TRC Calls to Action, organizations, and other sources of Indigenous knowledge available to me.
  • I will value, honour and respect stories, and the privilege and responsibility of listening to stories.
  • I will acknowledge the diversity of Indigenous cultural groups and individuals across Canada.
  • I commit to following the leadership of Indigenous nations’ knowledge holders.
  • I will challenge institutions and organizations – including my own- to drop colonial practices that continue to marginalize and oppress, and to integrate Indigenous knowledge into Social Work practice.
  • I will remember the critical importance of having Indigenous nations in decision-making capacities to ensure that Indigenous knowledge is reflected and respected in sector-wide policies and policymaking.
  • I will walk in parallel with Indigenous nations to nurture a new relationship based on best practices.
  • I commit to pursuing the co-creation of a set of respectful core values, wisdom, and structures for best practice.
  • I pledge to continue working towards reconciliation with the understanding that it is a process that will require time, patience, compassion, courage, and persistence


Preamble to all Social Work course material:

Classes in the School of Social Work are committed to reconciliation to redress the historic and contemporary burdens of colonialism borne by the First Peoples of Canada. This also means challenging other relations of oppression including, but not limited to: anti-Black racism, racism, sexism, classism, ableism, heterosexism and cisnormativity. We operationalize this commitment by examining historical and structural relations and, in the classroom, through our personal practices of critical self-reflection, humility, openness, and respect in interpersonal relations as we engage in the collaborative and ongoing process of critical social work education.

TRC Call to Action # 1

We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care by: 

  1. Monitoring and assessing neglect investigations
  2. Providing adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together where it is safe to do so, and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments, regardless of where they reside.
  3. Ensuring that social workers and others who conduct child-welfare investigations are properly educated and trained about the history and impacts of residential schools.
  4. Ensuring that social workers and others who conduct child-welfare investigations are properly educated and trained about the potential for Aboriginal communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing.
  5. Requiring that all child-welfare decision makers consider the impact of the residential school experience on children and their caregivers.

Mandatory Course: Yes

SOWK 4000 [0.5 credit] Social Work and Indigenous Peoples (BSW)

Social work in partnership with Indigenous peoples in Canada; impact of the past on current relationships; rebuilding through dialogue and respect; understanding Indigenous social work.

The Faculty of Social Work has also integrated Indigenous content into a number of mandatory courses as per “The Report of the Decolonizing, Indigenizing and Reconciliation Social Work Committee Spring 2020

  1. To support the integration of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing into the curriculum of the School’s programs. This means that course content, pedagogies, methods for instruction and methods for assessment will shift, over time.

SOWK 1001W: Introduction to Social Welfare (web-based). F2023 

In the second half of the semester, we will use the theories, approaches and historical and current contexts learned in the early classes to frame an exploration of the relationship between social welfare, social justice, and areas in which social workers practice their profession. Topics covered will include social welfare as it relates to Indigenous Peoples; immigrants, Black and racialized communities, poverty; children and families, the criminal justice system, and the global context.

In addition, Indigenous content has been integrated into most core courses.  

Indigenous-specific Learning outcomes

The relational resurgence committee developed the following Indigenous-specific learning outcomes expected of students graduating from their respective Social Work programs:

  1. Acknowledge the historic and ongoing resilience, resistance, and resurgence, of Aboriginal societies, First Nations, Metis and Inuit, against settler colonialism impacts; including challenging historical complicity and ongoing complicity of the social profession and education in colonial sites of oppressions.
  2. Demonstrate a clear understanding of colonialism, globalization, transnational corporate capitalism, and their diverse impacts on Indigenous peoples. This would include impacts of the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as domestic government policies, including Canadian constitutional laws.
  3. Recognize diversity within Aboriginal people’s worldviews, including ways of being, ways of knowledge(s) and ways of learning, resulting in unique individual, family and communities’ collective societal based approaches to social work and interventions

Graduate Courses available

SOWK 5702 Indigenous Practices 

This course will prepare students in work within Indigenous ethical protocols, concepts and practices as an effective helper. The focus will be on Anishinaabe teachings, which are related to this part of the Algonquin territory. Cultural protocols and ethics of the Anishinaabe helping processes on the land are covered. Cultural competence, trauma informed and safety models in social work and Indigenous helping practices are the foundation for this course.

SOWK 5015 Indigenous Knowledges ( the latter is not offered this year, but will be offered next year).

This course is an exploration of Indigenous knowledge, social work, and colonialism. An understanding of the history of social work with Indigenous peoples in Canada and contemporary strategies for reconciliation are at the core of this dialogue.  Social policies in Canada in various parts of civil society, such as post-secondary education, have recognized the need for robust discussion about Canadian colonial histories with Indigenous Peoples, including dialogue about genocide, under United Nations covenants. 

Numerous domestic commissions of inquiry have this foundational stone informing their reporting. This will be examined thru a social policy lens within structural positioning in Canada 

Faculty of Social Work Commitment to C2A # 1 3, 4 and 5: 3 out of 3 = 100%

3History and impact of residential schools (theory)
 Yes. Mandatory course on Social Work and Indigenous Peoples (BSW)
4Potential for Aboriginal communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing (practice)
 Yes.Identified as an expected outcome of the BSW programOne of the Priorities identified in the Social Work Committee Report 2020 states:# 2: To support the integration of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing into the curriculum of the School’s programs. This means that course content, pedagogies, methods for instruction and methods for assessment will shift, over time.
5All child welfare decision makers consider the impact of the residential school experience on children and their caregivers
 Yes. See Indigenous specific outcomes above

Compliance with CASWE/ACFTS Statement of Complicity and Commitment to Change 

At the May 27th, 2017 Board meeting, the Board of Directors of CASWE-ACFTS committed to ensuring that social work education in Canada contributes to transforming Canada’s colonial reality and approved a “Statement of Complicity and Commitment to Change”. “This is an important step in engaging social work education in the reconciliation process and supporting the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action” affirms CASWE-ACFTS President, Dr. Susan Cadel. 

Of the 12 actions articulated in the “Statement of Complicity and Commitment to Change, the following two are directed at Schools of Social Work:

7Will encourage institutional members to post a territorial acknowledgement on their School’s website and post a link to the CAUT guide to territorial acknowledgement on the CASWE-ACFTS website to assist Schools with this task
 Carleton University acknowledges the location of its campus on the traditional, unceded territories of the Algonquin nation. In doing so, Carleton acknowledges it has a responsibility to the Algonquin people and a responsibility to adhere to Algonquin cultural protocols.Algonquin Territory Acknowledgment – Indigenous Gathering SiteLocated under Policies and Procedures
8Will encourage and support Canadian schools of social work in revising mission statements, governance processes, curriculum, and pedagogy in ways that both advance the TRC recommendations and the overall indigenization of social work education
 Yes, see Principles of Learning in Social Work and the Indigenization, Decolonization and Reconciliation Committee report.
All content has been submitted to the respective faculty for validation to ensure accuracy and currency as of the time of posting. The Carleton University School of Social Work reviewed and approved the document.

Managing Editor: Douglas Sinclair: Publisher, Indigenous Watchdog
Lead Researcher, Julia Dubé