It’s been nearly one year since the children’s aid societies of Ontario acknowledged and apologized for the harmful role child welfare has played historically, and continues to play, in the lives of Ontario Indigenous children, families, and communities. Children’s Aid Societies have spent the past year working with local Indigenous communities to strengthen relationships and continue the work set out in our nine Reconciliation commitments. Our approach emphasizes the importance of each local children’s aid society working directly with local Indigenous community, and the Indigenous families they serve, to determine how to achieve the best outcomes.
Earlier this month OACAS and local Children’s Aid Societies met with Indigenous leaders, elders and community members from Ontario to discuss the work that’s been done over the past year, and what next steps are appropriate for local agencies. The theme of the event was “Learning Together to Bring Indigenous Children Home.”
At the event, OACAS presented an update on the progress for each Reconciliation commitment. Although the data doesn’t yet provide the full picture, one the most significant learnings has been that Children’s Aid Societies have not been properly identifying all the Indigenous children and families being served. The actual numbers for many agencies is much greater than originally thought. For the first time, all Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario are actively working on Reconciliation with Indigenous communities. However, we recognize agencies are at different places in their journey, with some further along than others.
Most significantly, child welfare leaders heard from Indigenous partners and leaders about both past and present trauma, as well as some instances where changes have been seen and some progress has been made. These stories illustrate the complexity of this journey—not only the forward progress, but the many instances where we need to be better. The Reconciliation journey is not a straight path toward a set end destination, but one of continuous humble learning.