How the Government of Canada began to institute the forcible separation of Aboriginal people from their land, culture and identity in order to have them adopt European lifestyles was launched with the Residential School system. It is the position of this article that this calculated strategy caused significant cumulative trauma in multiple generations of Aboriginal people.
Prior to those events,the social policy adopted by the Canadian Government in 1876 with the passing of The Indian Act is an example of how the federal government supported the extinguishment of Aboriginal peoples as separate and distinct peoples from the dominant European identity. This shift in federal policies from one of protector of both Aboriginal people and their lands, as set out in the “Royal Proclamation of 1763” (INAC, 1996) resulted from an increased desire to assume ownership of Aboriginal lands in the West to bring settlers, institute private property rights and establish Municipal Governments, (Tobias 1976).
Children raised in a strict, disciplined environment with substandard care and no personal affection has left generations of Aboriginal people without traditional survival skills, ceremonial rituals and little extended family contact. This loss of ceremonial rituals attacks the spiritual core of an Aboriginal person. Without ceremonial mourning rituals they do not have knowledge or access to rituals allowing proper mourning of the substantial grief experienced (Brave Heart, DeBruyn, 1998).
Without the safe expression of grief and bereavement, this unresolved grief is a key concept in understanding the Aboriginal experience in Canada.The suppression of language and ceremony is a clear example of policies of Canada’s government intended to remove Aboriginal’s identity to be replaced with European dominant values and culture. Brave Heart (1999) discussed this trauma as having multiple impacts on individual functioning leading to serious long-term mental and emotional disturbances. Children raised in Residential Schools reported increased stress when parenting their own children, inadequate feelings, and report confusion in how to parent children (Brave Heart, 1999).
Research has shown, (Smith et al. 2005) significant and extreme emotional injury and mental health concerns were caused by forced removal of children from their parental care under the Indian Act, where they were taken to Residential Schools where no traditional relationships continued, nor traditional parenting roles modelled and where negative experiences like physical, sexual and emotional trauma and abuse were perpetrated on children by the institutional staff.
Brave Heart, M.Y.H., & DeBruyn, L. (1998). The American Indian holocaust: Healing historical unresolved grief. American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research: Journal of the National Center, 8(2), 60-82.
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. (1996). Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Retrieved March 7, 2007, from http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sgmm_e.html
Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart (1999) Oyate Ptayela: Rebuilding the Lakota Nation Through Addressing Historical Trauma Among Lakota Parents, Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 2:1-2, 109-126, DOI: 10.1300/J137v02n01_08. To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J137v02n01_08
Tobias, J. L., (1976). Protection, civilization, assimilation: an outline history of Canada’s indian policy. Sweet Promises, A Reader for Indian-White relations in Canada, 127 – 144.
Smith, D., Varcoe, C., & Edwards, N. (2005). Turning around the intergenerational impact of RS on aboriginal people: Implications for health policy and practice. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 37, 4, 38-60.
An Annotated Article: Dumbrill, G. C., Child Abuse and Neglect, 30 (2006) 27-37, Parental experience of child protection intervention: a qualitative study.
This article describes how the inherent imbalance of power between parents and child welfare caseworkers cannot be rectified. In this article, Dumbrill presents a conclusion from his study showing the equal distribution of power between parents and child welfare caseworkers may not be possible. Focusing on a group of 18 parents from both Ontario and British Columbia, the client respondents were from lower socio-economic families experiencing the full spectrum of mandated and voluntary child intervention types. Following a grounded data gathering process, Dumbrill mapped a decision making process where parents’ responses to child intervention caseworkers shows that based on fear, parents cannot fully embrace collaboration with caseworkers.
Parents understanding of caseworker’s use of power is a key concept to begin an intervention with a family. Checking parents’ assumptions of the power imbalance between parents and child intervention staff must be a starting point for caseworkers. Parents are filled with fear in their contacts with child intervention staff because judgements about family life are made without the parents’ voice being heard in the process. This is seen as power over the family, causing a fight response by parents. This key judgement issue without listening to parents’ voices establishes the belief in parents child intervention staff impose their opinions on families, creating a clear power imbalance.
Parents who perceive caseworkers to be exercising power with them described supportive activities that assisted them becoming collaborative with caseworkers reach their mutual goals. Activities such as advocacy with other organizations or structures to access resources and practical assistance of a temporary relief to stabilize the family clearly showed as sharing power with parents creating solutions to common goals. However, parents’ were clear despite their perceptions of their caseworkers were supportive they never really let go of the fear if their voice or actions turned, a supportive caseworker can easily turn against their plans to have their intervention end successfully. Parents’ perceptions to worker use of their power is viewed as a core factor in influencing parents either responding to power with conflict or to power with collaboration.
This article’s limitations are first, the sample was very small and may not successfully be transferred to larger populations without further study. Second, recent practice frameworks have not been reviewed in this same light which may shed more information regarding efforts to increase consumer acceptance of intervention planning, such as Signs of Safety and Child Intervention Practice Framework. As a social justice response, I believe the Distributive Justice model of Iris Marion Young (Young, 2005) validates Drumbill’s conclusion best. The five faces of oppression; exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence can each be applied to the child intervention engagement scenario to validate the fear parents experience during periods of intervention.
My question is, to resolve this ethical dilemma, in your opinion, are the Signs of Safety or the Child Intervention practice framework changes in our intervention practice sufficient to bring this power imbalance to a more equitable level, and if not, what legislation or policy changes would you suggest?
Reference: Young, Iris Marion (2005), “Five faces of oppression”, in Cudd, Ann E.; Andreasen, Robin O., Feminist theory: a philosophical anthology, Oxford, UK Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 91–104, ISBN 9781405116619
Spent a few moments watching some some recent music videos at Vevo.com, particularly looking at Adele and her 2015 release 25. I found the style of Adele’s singing to be rich with tone and volume. I was impressed with both her vibrato and range. Liked the disc so much I purchased and am listening to it now. Well worth the effort and interest to listen yourself. Her ‘Hello‘ can be seen and heard at Vevo.com. Purchase the CD at Amazon.ca.