Recently the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) of Ottawa undertook Project of Heart as a way to enact meaningful gestures to acknowledge the systemic imbalances that see many Aboriginal children placed in child protection services away from their communities. The CAS exercise was spearheaded by Kristin Moir; her team is one of four that has been designated within the Society to serve the First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities in Ottawa.
The three “West Pod” teams that specialize in serving the First Nations and Métis community spent several months to learning about the Fort George Indian Residential School in James Bay, Quebec, a Residential school that was run by the Catholic Church. The culminating event of for the West Pods’s seven-month journey toward knowledge and awareness was a learning circle, where Grandmother Irene Lindsay oversaw the cleansing ceremony of 335 beautifully decorated wooden tiles, each in memory of a child who did not return to her family. Christopher Herodier Snowboy, from Chisasabi, was present to offer his lived experiential knowledge of the Indian Residential Schools, and sang a song dedicated to all the children of innocence who survived to tell their stories.
To complete the social action portion of Project of Heart the West Pod with the support of the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa’s internal First Nations, Inuit and Métis Forum challenged the rest of the Society to participate in a “social action-coffee break”. Staff across the Society attended the event and discovered new ways to raise their own awareness and become involved in the First Nations, Inuit and Métis community nationally and locally. Over 100 staff attended; they read posters, interacted with those who undertook POH, and signed the following petitions:
1. I am a Witness Campaign
2. Jordan’s Principle
3. Shannen’s Dream
4. Touchstones of Hope
5. Stolen Sisters
Computers in the Society’s information technology training room were set up so that staff could easily sign the petitions online at the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa has been working towards strengthening relationship with the urban Inuit, Métis and First Nation communities since 2007, through linkages with the Aboriginal service providers in Ottawa.
This work is ongoing, and is guided by the Society’s seven community partners in the form of a liaison committee. It was for this reason that the local “Buy a Tile” campaign at Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health was chosen as the West Pod’s local community connection. Collectively, the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa was able to purchase four tiles for Wabano’s expansion project, an $800 commitment.
The Society has also taken steps to incorporate information from the community consultations into our ‘Cultural Competency Project Strategic Planning Framework’. The First Nations, Inuit and Métis Liaison Group also developed “Circle of Care”, an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) model with Inuit, Métis and First Nation cultural beliefs and practices.
The CAS is continuing its relationship with the Aboriginal community in Ottawa, and recognizes through its practices the historic relationship between child welfare and Aboriginal peoples.