Actions and Commitments

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

Memorial University School of Social Work

May 23, 2024

As Newfoundland and Labrador’s only provider of social work education, Memorial University’s School of Social Work prepares professionals to make contributions in our province, as well as nationally and internationally.

The Memorial University School of Social Work Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work programs are accredited by the Canadian Association of Social Work Education – Association Canadienne pour la Formation en Travail Social (CASWE-ACFTS). Accreditation applies to both distance and in-class programs.

School of Social Work Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

From 2019 to 2021 the School of Social Work (SSW) participated in a Visiting Elders’ Pilot Project co-created with Memorial University’s Aboriginal/Indigenous Student Resource Centre (ISRC), where elders and knowledge keepers in Indigenous communities visited our classrooms to interact with students and faculty. During these visits, the elders educated faculty and students on Aboriginal/Indigenous perspectives on decolonization and indigenization, including Aboriginal/Indigenous healing practices, culturally appropriate decision making regarding children in need of care, and reconciliation. 

Rationale for the School of Social Work’s participation in this project is stated as follows: 

As part of our response to the Call to Action on Education of the Truth and Reconciliation Report,the SSW is committed to attracting and retaining Indigenous applicants to our Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) programs. For many applicants of self-identified First Nations, Inuit, or Métis ancestry, institutional processes and cultural and racial differences exist, which often present barriers to learning. In response, the SSW has made changes to the application process and curriculum in order to include information and experiences about Indigenous knowledge and practices as well as the impact of colonization. This opportunity to co-create a Visiting Elders pilot project with the ISRC is a significant step towards (i) furthering the decolonization and Indigenization of the BSW social work curriculum and pedagogy, and (ii) transforming the university environment and the learning framework of Indigenous education in the academy. The presence of Elders on campus can create a dynamic difference in the education of all students and introduce the entire university community to the rich traditions and knowledges of Indigenous communities. 

Anti-Indigenous Racism Statement

After collaboration between members of the School of Social Work Equity and Diversity Committee and others, we have committed to the anti-Indigenous racism actions for the School of Social Work found in our Anti-Indigenous Racism Statement.

“As beginning steps in transforming our colonial reality, the Memorial University School of Social Work commits to a process of decolonization, reconciliation, and Indigenization. In doing so, we recognize the distinct nature of Indigenous social work and, as such, we position Indigeneity as reflected in the spirit and Calls to Action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

“We are committed to the following actions for the School of Social Work:

  1. Educating ourselves and each other about colonizing and racist narratives, policies, and practices, particularly those embedded in social work teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and service and practice;
  2. Building relationships with Indigenous peoples, organizations, and communities, and actively participating in Indigenous events and calls for social justice;
  3. Creating more opportunities for Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers to engage with students, staff members, and academic staff members in our collective journey towards decolonization, reconciliation, and Indigenization, and ensuring that Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers are well compensated;
  4. Implementing directives from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and any forthcoming reports;
  5. Creating a School mission statement, governance processes, curriculum, and teaching and learning processes, and incorporating current and comprehensive knowledge regarding the decolonization and Indigenization of undergraduate and graduate social work education;
  6. Actively recruiting and retaining Indigenous students and removing barriers, changing admission requirements, and developing retention strategies for Indigenous undergraduate and graduate students;
  7. Actively recruiting and retaining Indigenous academic staff members and staff members;
  8. Co-creating “safe-as-possible” teaching and learning environments that are actively decolonized, anti-racist, and free from prejudice, discrimination, harassment, and oppression;
  9. Encouraging and promoting research and scholarship addressing colonialism, systemic racism, and white supremacy;
  10. Supporting and defending students, staff members, and academic staff members who are harassed or discriminated against for integrating decolonization, reconciliation, Indigenization, and anti-racism into their teaching and learning, research and scholarship, service and practice, and collegial relations; and
  11. Supporting and encouraging Indigenous students, staff members, and academic staff members in pursuing leadership positions within the School and the University.”

Bachelor of Social Work, Nunavut Cohort

The School of Social Work is excited to announce the start of the Bachelor of Social Work, Nunavut Cohort, degree program in September 2021.

As part of the broader partnership between the Nunavut Arctic College (NAC) and Memorial University, the School of Social work has partnered with NAC to offer graduates of the Nunavut Arctic College social service worker diploma program the opportunity to complete a Memorial University Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program.

Bachelor of Social Work, Nunavut Cohort | School of Social Work | Memorial University of Newfoundland (

Inuit Bachelor of Social Work 

In December 2009, the School of Social Work signed an agreement with the Nunatsiavut Government to design and offer the Inuit Bachelor of Social Work (IBSW). From 2010 to 2013, the School offered the IBSW, and all 19 students who enrolled in the program successfully completed their studies. According to the evaluation report (Graham, 2015) for the IBSW program, 93% of IBSW students believe they received the skills and knowledge needed to work effectively as a social worker, and 89% report working as social workers or in a field that required a BSW degree or where a BSW degree was an asset. 

Hiring and Retention of Indigenous Faculty and Staff + Educational Equity Initiative 

The School of Social Work is committed to recruiting and retaining Indigenous faculty and staff to advance our academic mission. In recent years, we have successfully hired one Indigenous faculty member and one Indigenous staff member. We remain committed to furthering inclusion and representation of Indigenous faculty and staff within our community. This commitment is evident in our School’s longstanding Educational Equity Initiative, which reserves a minimum of 5% of admission seats for Indigenous students across each of our BSW, MSW, and PhD programs.

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. Content integrated into multiple courses

SCWK 1710 – Social Work Philosophy and Practice 

Teaches students to be able to: explain the adverse effects of colonialism, the residential school system, the Sixties Scoop, and other negative events on Canada’s Indigenous peoples; analyze the meaning of “cultural genocide” in the context of Canada’s Indigenous peoples; explain the systemic factors underlying the serious problem of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada; and describe attempts to address the historic trauma experienced by Canada’s Indigenous peoples, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, among other learning objectives. 

SCWK 2711 – Social Justice and Social Work Practice

One of the key topics of this course is Indigenous Social Justice: The long road to reconciliation. Required readings include: 

  • Blackstock (2009). The Occasional Evil of Angels: Learning from the Experiences of Aboriginal Peoples and Social Work; and 
  • Hynes Brothers, K. et. al. (2023). Telling Our Story: White professionals share their  experience of working with Inuit Children in Care. 

SCWK 3311 – Integrating Theory and Practice 

Teaches Aboriginal/Indigenous Approaches to Helping as a key content focus for students. 

SCWK 3320 – Social Work Knowledge and Skills for Assessment and Intervention 

Teaches the following to students: Reflexivity and Social Work Practice; Intersectionality and Social Work Practice; and Colonialism and Social Work. The course exposes students to CASW Statement of Apology and Commitment to Reconciliation. 

SCWK 3720: Ethical and Legal Issues in Social Work Practice 

Gives attention to the following as important areas of knowledge for practice in Canada

  • Emerging Issues in social work ethics and demands on ethical practitioners in a colonial context;
  • Cultural & historical influences on ethics – Professional competence, Cultural awareness & humility; 
  • Cultural perspectives on ethical principles; 
  • Canadian political & legal systems & decolonization; 
  • Ethical challenges in a colonial context – Roles of diverse knowledge/values.

Important course materials include the following: 

  • Barsky, A.E. (2023). Essential Ethics for Social Work Practice, Oxford. 
  • Johnston & Tester. (2015). The contradiction of helping: Inuit oppressions and social work in Nunavut. Journal of Progressive Human Services, 246-262. 

SCWK 4312 – Social Work Knowledge and Skills for Community Development 

Provides content on Aboriginal/Indigenous community organizing perspectives, including medicine wheel approaches, restrorative justice approaches, and use of talking circles. Required readings have included: 

  • Absolon, K., & Herbert, E. (1997). Community action as a practice of freedom: a First Nations perspective. In B. Wharf & M. Claque (Eds)Community organizing: Canadian experiences (pp. 205-225).Toronto: Oxford University Press. 
  • Androff, D. (2016). A case study of a grassroots truth and reconciliation commission from a community practice perspective. Journal of Social Work18(3), 273-287. 
  • Beck, E. (2012). Transforming Communities: Restorative Justice as a Community Building Strategy. Journal of Community Practice, 20(4), 380-401. 

SCWK 4620 – Social Work in Interdisciplinary Mental Health and Health Services 

Provides important content related to Indigenous peoples, colonialism and racism in the area of mental health diagnosis and treatment. Relevant required readings include: 

  • Cohen, B.M.Z. (2014). Passive-aggressive: Maori resistance and the continuance of colonial psychiatry in Aotearoa New Zealand, Disability and the Global South, 1(2), 319-339. 
  • Cranford, J.M & LeFrançois, B.A. (2022) Mad studies is maddening social work. Issues in Social Work, 27(3), 69-84. 
  • Fernando, S. (1992). Roots of racism in western psychiatry, OpenMind, 59, 10-11. 
  • Keating, F. (2016). Racialized communities, producing madness and dangerousness. Intersectionalities, 5(3): 173-185.
  • Mills, C. & LeFrançois, B.A. (2018). Child as metaphor: Colonialism, psy-governance, and epistemicide. World Futures, 74: 503-524. 

Elective Course

SCWK 4321– Social Work in Child Abuse and Protection

The entire content of SCWK 4321 is around child protection practices with Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities. Required readings that provide content on Indigenous child welfare issues include: 

  • Sohki Aski Esquao & Susan Strega (2015). Walking this Path Together: Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppressive Child Welfare Practice, Second Edition. 
  • Roland Chrisjohn (1994/2016). The Circle Game: Shadows and Substance in the Indian Residential School Experience in Canada.
  • Blackstock, C. (2009). The occasional evil of angels. First Peoples Child and Family Review, 4(2), 28-37. 
  • Blackstock, C. (2011). Wanted: Moral Courage in Canadian Child Welfare. First Peoples Child and Family Review. 6(2), 35-46. 
  • LeFrançois, B.A. (2013). The psychiatrisation of our children, or, an autoethnographic narrative of perpetuating First Nations genocide through ‘benevolent’ institutions. Decolonization, 2(1), 108-123.

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

3History and impact of residential schools (theory)
 Yes. See SCWK 2711, SCWK 3320, SCWK 3720, SCWK 4620 and SCWK 1710
4Potential for Aboriginal communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing (practice)
 Yes. See SCWK 4312Some of our courses sensitize students on this theme. 
5All child welfare decision makers consider the impact of the residential school experience on children and their caregivers
 Yes. See SCWK1710, SCWK 3311 and SCWK 4321

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
 We acknowledge that the lands on which Memorial University’s campuses are situated are in the traditional territories of diverse Indigenous groups, and we acknowledge with respect the diverse histories and cultures of the Beothuk, Mi’kmaq, Innu, and Inuit of this province.Located on Faculty of Social Work – Home Page and Memorial University – Home Page
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
 Our revised mission statement for 2022-2027 is as follows: We prepare skilled and caring social work professionals to be critical thinkers and agents of positive change, through innovative social work education, impactful research and community collaborations. In all our work, we are committed to equity, diversity, inclusion, Indigeneity, and anti-racism to achieve a more just and inclusive province and world ( 
All content has been submitted to the respective faculty for validation to ensure accuracy and currency as of the time of posting. The Memorial University School of Social Work reviewed and approved the document.

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