Indigenous Peoples Day 2020

Happy National Indigenous Peoples Day to all members and their clients.

Today is an opportunity to celebrate the heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The holiday, which began in 1996 and was originally called National Aboriginal Day, is meant to recognize and highlight the culture and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities. It is held on June 21 each year and coincides with the first day of summer. But beyond celebrations, National Indigenous Peoples Day is an opportunity for all Nova Scotians to learn about Indigenous culture and history.

While celebrations and events for National Indigenous History Month may be different this year than those in the past, NSCSW encourages everyone to share and learn from stories, traditions and culture in new ways that keep us together and connected. 

As we continue to be called to embrace anti-racist practices to directly address systemic racism, we invite social workers to engage in self-reflection to explore personal and professional commitments towards reconciliation.

I began my journey towards reconciliation when I was working with the City of Edmonton and had the privilege of hearing the testimony of residential school survivors. What struck me through this process is how our own personal histories are told and framed, and how the messages that we receive reinforce and perpetuate Eurocentric and racist attitudes. I share my reflection below: 

Reflections on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
Part OnePart TwoPart Three

Moving forward as a profession, we must be committed to reconciliation. Through the leadership of Fred Phelps and the Canadian Association of Social Workers, our profession is engaged in reaching out to Indigenous communities to learn their perspectives as we navigate this journey collectively. In the fall of 2019 the CASW formally apologized to Indigenous communities for social work’s role in establishing and participating in the residential school movement which played a core part of the genocide of Indigenous people in Canada. As part of the apology we have committed ourselves fully to the process of reconciliation.

As a proud member of the CASW, the NSCSW has also committed to applying a reconciliation lens to the re-visioning of foundational documents, to bring humility and accountability to social justice efforts, and to give precedence to Indigenous voices and causes. Part of this commitment has meant ensuring that social workers have access to education and information to help advance reconciliation and decolonization in their own practices. Many social workers continue to experience the challenges that come from working within a colonial structure that fails to acknowledge Indigenous rights in relation to justice, mental health, and child welfare. Both the NSCSW and the CASW support the calls for justice in Reclaiming Power and Place to provide Indigenous governments and leaders jurisdiction in this area with equitable funding and support.

We remain committed as a profession to recognize the specific role and responsibility we have in supporting the implementation of the recommendations provided in Reclaiming Power and Place, and we continue to urge the federal and provincial governments to comply with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. The path towards reconciliation must be met with solemn determination and hope. It is our commitment as a profession to review our College’s foundational documents, the 2005 Code of Ethics and 2017 Standards of Practice, through a process grounded in the principles of reconciliation. There is much work ahead. We remain committed to continuing this work, energized by the prospect of collaborating with other social work organizations in Canada to work collectively for reconciliation. 

To support our learning towards reconciliation, here are a number of webinars produced by the CASW:

We invite all social workers to celebrate and learn with us on this National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Alec Stratford
Executive Director/Registrar
Nova Scotia College of Social Workers