Actions and Commitments

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

St. Thomas University School of Social Work

May 23, 2024

The School of Social Work is committed to a politicized social work practice grounded in a structural approach. This fosters greater awareness of the broad and intersecting injustices caused by oppressive structures while preparing students to be effective and ethical practitioners.

Our goal is that graduates are able to integrate vision, knowledge, and skills for practice that may lead to social transformation toward a more equitable and just society. While seeking to develop and teach a politicized social work practice, we strive to remain open to new ideas, analyses, and realities that challenge and inform our ongoing efforts.

The School of Social Work, which offers the only English masters and bachelors social work degrees in New Brunswick, began as a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Social Science in 1976, followed by the addition of a Certificate of Social Work, and a Bachelor of Social Work in 1980.

School of Social Work Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

The Canadian Association of Social Work Educator’s Commission on Accreditation in granting St. Thomas University an 8-year re-accreditation to Jan. 31, 2031 conducted a review of all courses in the curriculum and stated: “Since last accreditation, the program has worked hard to integrate more diversity and difference into all aspects of the curriculum. There was a course on diversity that was developed, along with updating courses that focus on Indigenous issues, LGBTQ12SA and disabilities.

School of Social Work Values Missions and Principles


We have a commitment to the core values of structural social work, and to that end we encompass the following principles:

  • Promotion of theoretical frameworks which address oppression and engage in critical reflection of professional education and practice.
  • Fostering research that is based in social justice and facilitates the empowerment of people and groups impacted by oppression.
  • Recognition of and commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action (TRC, 2019), the decolonization and indigenization of social work education.
  • Engagement in required social action change efforts at the community and government levels in a social action placement and direct practice field placement.
  • Participation in social action change efforts that address the historical inequities of disadvantaged groups and promote change through a social justice lens.

Ongoing Anti-Indigenous Racism AIR Project

Currently, the School of Social Work is working with the provincial team working on First Nations Knowledge and Evidence: Taking Action on Systemic Racism Through Cultural Safety (Ant-Indigenous Racism AIR project). Several part-time faculty that supervise students in field placements are taking training to become Mentees in order to increase mental health providers. There have been preliminary discussions about the possibility of direct field placements on the mental health teams.

Throughout the summer of 2023 the AIR project team completed a best practice literature review and consulted with numerous social workers, psychologists, and First Nations mental health professional regarding potential topics for ant-Indigenous racism curriculum. Such curriculum would seek to enhance cultural competency and safety for social workers and psychologists working with First Nations individuals

Senate Committee on Reconciliation

The Senate Committee on Reconciliation reflects the reconciliation need for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities served by St. Thomas University to work towards a decolonization of the University. The Committee works to ensure that the university annually identifies and fulfills its responsibility in accordance with the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015) that universities take the lead in re-setting the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. The Committee determines practical steps and specific timelines for advancing reconciliation through initiatives that address education, dialogue, and collective action. The Committee is also responsible for drawing the University’s attention to ways to build on and expand existing relationships between the University and Indigenous communities in the region.

Mi’kmaq Maliseet Program

In 1983, the Union of New Brunswick Indians and New Brunswick Indian Committee requested development of a social work program for Indigenous students. This began with a Certificate in Social Work and has evolved to the Mi’kmaq Maliseet Bachelor of Social Work Program which provides accredited professional social work education to Indigenous students in a flexible and culturally relevant framework. The program is directed toward First Nation peoples in New Brunswick, Quebec, and the Maritime Provinces who wish to become social workers in their communities.

The Mi’kmaq Maliseet Bachelor of Social Work Program has an intake every three years. The next intake will be in September 2026 with the application opening October 1, 2025. 

Distinctive Features

  • There is recognition that First Nation peoples have been historically disadvantaged in educational and other systems.
  • The program design respects that First Nation students are typically employed and have family commitments. In recognition of these commitments, courses are offered one week per month (September to April) over a two-year period and 2 weeks in the months of May and June.  Students will be in Field Placement in the 3rd year. 
  • There is recognition of First Nation systems of knowledge, practice and ways of learning.
  • There is a culturally-relevant curriculum that reflects First Nation’s holistic world view.
  • The program is overseen by a committee of members from St. Thomas University, First Nations Child and Family Agencies, and student representatives from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

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: Multiple. Integrated in selective courses

Introductory course for students applying to the BSW program:

SCWK 2013 Introduction to Social Welfare

Reviews the Calls to Action for child welfare services in the unit on the welfare and well-being of children. Students view a documentary about the history and impacts of residential schools and the “60’s” Scoop”. In class, we discuss the history, Calls to Action, and learn about child welfare services delivered by local Indigenous communities. The concepts are integrated into units throughout the course ie., the welfare and wellbeing of women, people living in poverty , history of social welfare, and welfare and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples). The instructor also introduces students to the Indigenous resurgence movement and the strengths and capacity of Indigenous communities and First Nations. The students are tested in their comprehension of the history and impact of residential schools and the Calls to Action in the final exam of the course

Indigenous content Integrated in Upper Year Social Work courses

SCWK 3903 Theory for Social Work Practice

The course examines current theories and models of social work as seen through an Indigenous lens

SCWK 3943 Social Work Values and Ethics

This course examines critical concepts in immigration work and ethics (universalism, multiculturalism, diversity, cultural assimilation cultural integration, etc.); anti-oppressive practice as a means of ethical practice in immigration and cultural work; ethical social work with Indigenous people; and how colonialism crated a need for ethics. The Two Row Wampum is presented as a way forward for reconciliation and ethical practice in social work. Students examine the Convention on the Rights of the Child; examine children’s tights in practice; discuss and examine the concept of the “best interest of the child” through case studies. Students examine the human rights complaint filed by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations.

SCWK-3503 Research Methods for Social Work

This  curse primarily focuses on Indigenous research paradigms and methodologies.

SCWK-3163 Addressing Diversity

This course addresses critical whiteness and has classes examining Indigenous social work practice and colonialism.

SCWK-3553 Generalist Social Work Practice Skills I

This course examines Indigenous approaches to direct practice, wholistic self, wholistic approach, centrality pf relationality, critique of Euro-western framings and decolonization.

SCWK-3253 Organizing for Action with Diverse Groups

This course includes Restorative Justice processes and the role of social work on Elsipogtog First Nations. Here is interactive discussion on Reconciliation through Restorative Justice and the role of social work 

SCWK-4903 Theory for Social Work Practice II

This course explore the dynamics of privilege and includes the required reading: Kalvari, L (2022). A critical reflection: Exposing whiteness in child welfare practice. Firty Peoples Child and Family Review, 17(1) pp. 51-61

SCWK-4723 Child Welfare

This course examines the rights of children and youth: includes reviewing An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families; current state of Indigenous child welfare; Best Interests of the Child from an Indigenous perspective.

SCWK-4783 Law and Social Work – The Family Services Act

A required reading for this course incudes: Blackstock, C (2009). The Occasional Evil of Angels: Learning from the Experiences of Aboriginal People with Social Workers. First People’s Child and Family Review, 4(1) 28-237

Mi’kmaq Maliseet Program

The following 8 “elective” courses are included under the “Mi’kmaq Maliseet Program” that are designed specifically for Indigenous students:

SCWK-2503. Research Strategies in Native Studies (NATI)

Surveys various research strategies from Anthropology and Sociology and assesses their applicability to, and compatibility with, Native Studies. Considers special protocol and ethical questions in research on Native Peoples.

SCWK-3163. Addressing Diversity in Social Work Practice

Using critical, anti-oppressive, decolonizing, and Indigenous frameworks, this course analyzes structural social work practice in the context of diversity, recognizing social justice as being inextricably linked to social work. (3 credit hours)

SCWK-3603. Native People and the Colonial Experience (NATI)

This course will look at colonialism as a strategy of imperialism and as a model for understanding North American Native history. Different types of colonialism will be explored, i.e. classic, internal, and neocolonialism, and an emphasis will be placed on the history and continuing impact of colonialism on Indigenous peoples and cultures of North America. The course will also analyze Christian missions, the fur trade, and colonial government policies, as well as exploitation, racism, war, indoctrination, genocide, and cultural appropriation as manifestations of colonialism. Responses to colonialism, including resistance and decolonization, will also be considered

SCWK-3813. Native Cultural Identity and Cultural Survival (NATI)

Considers cultural identity and survival within the context of inequality (power, wealth and status). Focuses on the ways in which Native language, group solidarity and community offer cultural completeness, acting as barriers to assimilation. Historic and contemporary Native cultures are presented as dynamic and flexible.

SCWK-3843. Suicide and Indigenous Peoples (NATI)

Suicide is, and has been for nobody knows how long, rampant in indigenous populations in Canada. Despite well-publicized projects targeting specific communities, none of the interventions have been able to demonstrate any positive effect; if anything, the problem continues to worsen. We examine critically the field of Suicidology as it applies to the Native Peoples of Canada and suggest reasons why efforts to prevent suicide have not paid off. We also explore different kinds of interventions that may be more successful.

SCWK-3853. Alcohol, Drugs, and Indigenous Peoples (NATI)

This course provides an introduction to issues of alcohol and drug use/abuse in indigenous communities (concentrating on Canada for the most part, but including reference to such issues in other indigenous communities worldwide). Traditional uses of substances which alter consciousness are reviewed, as well as the role that the introduction of unfamiliar psychoactive substances played in European expansionism and colonialism. Modern models of addiction and programs for recovery are critically examined and placed within the context of creating a continuing marginalization of indigenous cultures by dominating ones.

SCWK-5513. Social Work, Organizations and Native People (K)

This course will assist social workers to practice in human service organizations in Native communities. The course will include a theoretical and historical analysis of why and how specific organizations such as the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) affect First Nations communities. There will be an emphasis on issues of leadership and on the political organizations that are relevant to First Nations. Issues of self-determination and implications for social work practice will also be discussed.

SCWK-5713. Introduction to Research Methods and Statistics in Social Work (Indigenous Focus) (F) (K)

This class provides an introduction to Indigenous and Western research paradigms and methods with an emphasis on social workers as social justice researchers. Students will learn about a range of qualitative and quantitative research methods. The focus will be on social justice oriented qualitative research methods, mainly Indigenous, anti-oppressive, and other critical approaches. Some quantitative methods endorsed by Indigenous scholars and communities will be highlighted.

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 mandatory course descriptions above for both BSW program and the Mi’kmaq Maliseet Program
4Potential for Aboriginal communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing (practice)
 Yes. See mandatory course descriptions above for both BSW program and the Mi’kmaq Maliseet Program
5All child welfare decision makers consider the impact of the residential school experience on children and their caregivers
 Yes. See mandatory course descriptions above for both BSW program and the Mi’kmaq Maliseet Program
Compliance with CASWE/ACFTS Statement of Complicity and Commitment to ChangeAt 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
 The land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Wolastoqiyik, Wəlastəkewiyik / Maliseet whose ancestors along with the Mi’Kmaq / Mi’kmaw and Passamaquoddy / Peskotomuhkati Tribes / Nations signed Peace and Friendship Treaties with the British Crown in the 1700s.Located on St. Thomas University – Home Page and  Indigenous Resource SiteLand Acknowledgement is also included in all course outlines for the program that instructors read during the first class in each course.
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
 Not specifically addressed.
All content has been submitted to the respective faculty for validation to ensure accuracy and currency as of the time of posting. The St. Thomas University School of Social Work reviewed and approved the document.

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