Actions and Commitments

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

Wilfrid Laurier University School of Social Work

May 24, 2024

Laurier’s Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work has an international reputation for excellence in teaching, research, and field education. Our programs are ideally located in the heart of downtown Kitchener and Brantford, Ontario – embedding our students close to the social service agencies with which they work.

Laurier is a mid-sized university that offers students big opportunities, all with a small community feel. Laurier is a place where people are inspired to learn, lead, and build lifelong relationships; to give their all and to give back. Our commitment to purposeful learning and student experience ensures our graduates are ready to leave their mark on the world. In our campus communities, the communities we live, learn and work in, and our global community, Laurier builds meaningful connections that have a lasting impact. We offer social work programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Our newest Bachelor of Social Work program, located at Laurier’s Brantford campus, offers a generalist degree with a unique focus on Indigenous issues.

School of Social Work Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

Mission Statement

The Faculty of Social Work is devoted to excellence in research, creative and critical thinking, and reflective practice. Our students learn through traditional and innovative teaching techniques and our Indigenous Field of Study challenges traditional pedagogy through Indigenous-based learning (e.g. Indigegogy). We challenge students to become active citizens of an increasingly complex and interconnected world. We fulfill our mission by advancing multi-disciplinary and marginalized forms of knowledge, including an Indigenous worldview, which is foundational to developing excellence in social work practice with individuals, families, groups, and communities. Skilled in the continuum of practice, our graduates are committed to challenging the oppressive conditions and structures that affect their clients. Our individual and collaborative scholarship is relevant to community and social needs, framed by our engagement in our own communities, and by our dedication to innovative and integrated practice education.

WLU has an Indigenous-informed Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program in Brantford, an Indigenous-led MSW program (Indigenous Field of Study) in Kitchener, and the Centre for Indigegogy.

Bachelor of Social Work – Brantford Campus

Students completing their BSW at Laurier complete at least three required courses related to settler responsibilities and Indigenous social work practices (SK311, ID120, and ID302) in addition to elective options including wholistic healing practices (SK422), Indigenous worldviews and knowledge (ID200, 300, and 400-level courses), and an inter-disciplinary course examining the Gladue Principles (ISHS200). The intentional integration of both Social Work and Indigenous Studies courses provides a focus on Indigenous topics including the examination of the cultural exchanges between Canada’s colonial processes and First Nations people.

One of the unique aspects of Laurier’s Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program is the option to complete a Minor in Indigenous Studies, alongside a BSW degree. This Minor option includes the completion of 3.0 credits (6 courses) that directly relate to Indigenous history, knowledge, and culture. 

Master of Social Work Indigenous Field of Study

In the Master of Social Work Indigenous Field of Study program, students develop an understanding of the Indigenous wholistic healing approach and apply this knowledge within diverse and generalist practice contexts. This includes practices with individuals and groups, as well as in contexts where community work is undertaken and in policy and research areas.

At cultural camp students are fully immersed in Indigenous wholistic healing practices. The cultural camp will be followed by courses that outline the history of colonial policies and the history of the importance of the community to Indigenous populations, enabling an immersive experience in Indigenous worldviews and experiences. Courses encourage students to examine their own wholistic nature and how it impacts their own inherent capacity to engage other people’s lives while facilitating a healing journey. The practicum is a key component in practicing what it takes to facilitate a healing journey.

Centre for Indigegogy

Founded in 2017, the Centre for Indigegogy has prevailed as an elite body for Indigenous centred, wholistic professional development programming, offering education to the community. Situated within the Master of Social Work (MSW) Indigenous Field of Study program at Wilfrid Laurier University, the Centre offers thirty-five (35) modules, spanning four (4) certificates, including four (4) standalone wholistic professional development courses. We are proud to offer year-round programming, in addition to customized trainings with organizations across Turtle Island.

What is Indigegogy?

Indigegogy is a term coined by Stan Wilson, a Cree Elder and Educator. Indigegogy uses Indigenous knowledge, literature and scholarship and is centred on land-based education. Indigegogy engages Indigenous methodology such as circle work to uplift traditional teachings, ceremonies, and practices. Indigegogy is a decolonizing practice that builds on the resurgence of Indigenous ways of knowing, teaching, and learning.

Undergraduate Calendar January 2024

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, three (3)

ID120 Introduction to Indigenous Studies 0.5 credit (12-week course)

Provides students with an overview of the discipline of Indigenous Studies including the history, cultures, and experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

ID302/YC302 Indigenous Children and Families 0.5 Credit (12-week course)

This Indigenous Studies course looks at Indigenous child welfare in Canada and the strengths of Indigenous children and family systems. Students will explore the meaning of childhood within various Indigenous cultures, will examine colonial disruptions to Indigenous family systems through the residential school and state child welfare systems, and will learn about the resistance, resilience, and recovery successes of Indigenous peoples toward Indigenous family well-being.

SK311 Reconciliation and Indigenous-Social Work Relations 0.5 Credit (12-week course)

This Social Work course provides knowledge for understanding the historic colonial processes that have deeply impacted First Nations communities in Canada, and the role social work has played in those violent dynamics. A central premise of the course is that reconciliation requires an active awareness of this history as part of the process towards decolonizing Canadian institutions, including the profession of social work that is our focus. As such, students will critically investigate the past, present, and future of missions (e.g., Christian, Residential Schools, Social Work 60s Scoop) that had the goal of helping Indigenous communities, but more often were central to their disempowerment and resulting social impacts. 

We are concerned with the problematic relations between Indigenous communities and social work as a means for beginning to consider what healing entails for both the Indigenous survivors of intergenerational trauma and a profession that is implicated in this social violence. To learn about the potential future of our healing profession, we will follow the lead of Indigenous worldviews and experiences as it pertains to understanding this colonizing history and what healing entails. These views will be brought into a dialogue with social work research that has the potential for fostering more respectful relations. Those learners who see themselves working with First Nations, Inuit, and/or Metis communities as a social worker will benefit from the specific decolonizing knowledge and perspectives on healing that this course offers, though a more comprehensive engagement of holistic healing practices will be covered in SK422.

Elective Social Work Course: Yes, (1)

SK422 Indigenous Wholistic Healing 0.5 credit (12-week course)

Students will engage in a learning and reflective process which invites them to use the worldview of Indigenous populations with an emphasis on the Wholistic restorative and healing notions in a circle process. Students will explore concepts of healing that flow from a Wholistic Indigenous worldview. Healing is understood to be the facilitation of a healing journey for the individual, their family, their extended family, their community, their nation, and for spiritual relationships. The focus of this healing journey is on enhancing the nature of Creation for future generations. Students will gain an understanding of wholistic healing practices. The use of the circle process will be a key element of this Social Work course.

Additional Elective Non-Social Work Course: Yes, (20+)

Students in the BSW program have elective options that can be taken within the Indigenous Studies program. This program offers 20+ courses open to BSW students as elective options. For BSW students completing an Indigenous Studies (ID) Minor, this means taking 6 electives courses that fulfill the requirements for the ID minor. While an ID Minor is frequently chosen by BSW students, students who are not completing a minor often choose ID electives such as: 

  • ID207 Gender and Indigenous Communities
  • ID309 Indigenous Forms of Justice
  • ID360 Indigenous-Settler Relations
  • ID386 Indigenous Psychology

Finally, a course often sought out by BSW students, as an elective course, is ISHS200 Gladue Principles, offered by the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences. This is a 1.0 credit course (two 12-week terms) examines the need to consider additional factors when applying the Canadian Criminal Code when sentencing Indigenous offenders. This online course takes a comprehensive look at Gladue Principles of justice from a historical, contemporary, practical, and critical lens. Examples of how the Canadian Criminal Code Gladue Section 718.2(e) has opened space for engagement with and integration of Indigenous legal orders and modes of achieving justice will be included, as well as exploration of arguments in support of broad structural change.

The credit course is designed as a comprehensive as well as a critical look at Gladue for students whose anticipated career paths may bring them into contact with a Gladue court or the need for information or context pertaining to an Indigenous person’s background and life circumstances. Initial exploration of this topic was based on feedback received from attorneys, court workers and a judge who encouraged the development of new educational supports designed to increase development of knowledge and understanding in a complex and often-misunderstood area of the criminal code.

Students who complete the credit course with a 70% or higher are granted the Gladue Principles Certificate (non-credit) from the Centre for Public Safety and Well-Being in addition to receiving the credit on their transcript. 

See also Undergraduate Academic Calendar for additional information about Indigenous Studies elective course descriptions and offerings.

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
4Potential for Aboriginal communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing (practice)
 Yes. See mandatory course descriptions
5All child welfare decision makers consider the impact of the residential school experience on children and their caregivers
 Yes. See mandatory course descriptions

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
  Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario is located on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee peoples. We are grateful for all the Indigenous people who continue to care for and remain interconnected with this land. Miigwech, Nia:wen for knowing that our ongoing survival is connected to the land.Located on Centre for Indigegogy | Wilfrid Laurier University (
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 mission statement.  
All content has been submitted to the respective faculty for validation to ensure accuracy and currency as of the time of posting. The Wilfrid Laurier University School of Social Work reviewed and approved the document.

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