Osgoode Hall Law School will be the venue on Oct. 21 for a major symposium, entitled “Re-imagining Child Welfare Systems in Canada,” that will bring together academics, front-line service providers, advocates, and community-based organizations to deepen understanding of how race intersects with the over-representation of Aboriginal and African-Canadian children in child welfare systems.
Jointly hosted by Osgoode’s Journal of Law and Social Policy, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, the African Canadian Legal Clinic, and the Action Group on Access to Justice of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the symposium follows on the heels of calls for action domestically (the Truth and Reconciliation Commission) and internationally (the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) to address this situation.
“The day will include more than 40 presenters who will share current research on the correlation between race and child protection intervention as well as promising community-led alternative models from across the country,” said Osgoode Professor Janet Mosher, one of the organizers of the symposium, which will be held from 8:30am to 4:30pm at Osgoode.
Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, will be the morning keynote speaker and Kike Ojo, project lead of One Vision One Voice: Changing the Child Welfare System for African Canadians, will be the luncheon speaker.
Panels throughout the day will explore, among other issues, the implications of the Caring Society decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal; the laws of Indigenous Peoples related to child welfare; Indigenous and African-Canadian community-driven and culturally-based models; and the complex interplay of poverty and race.
Mosher noted that Aboriginal children are dramatically over-represented at every stage of child protection intervention across Canada, and the key drivers are poverty, poor housing, and substance misuse related to multi-generational trauma. Research suggests race is a factor in child welfare authority decision-making as it remains significant even after clinical factors are controlled for.
A compounding disadvantage for First Nations children is the discriminatory child welfare funding regimes on reserves and in the Yukon that yield significantly fewer family support services despite the higher needs of families owing to the multi-generational impacts of residential schools and colonization.
While there is a lack of national data on the situation of African Canadian children in Canada, the over-representation of African Canadian children has been documented in Ontario, particularly within large urban centers. Data from the Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, for example, reveal that African-Canadian children are 40 per cent more likely to be over-represented among reports to child protection authorities.
For the symposium program and registration details, please visit here.