28 J.L. & Soc. Pol'y 1 (2018)

handle is hein.journals/jlsp28 and id is 1 raw text is: 
Mosher and Hewitt: Reimagining Child Welfare Systems in Canada


Reimagining Child Welfare Systems in Canada


JANET MOSHER & JEFFERY HEWITT

                Can you tell me where my real home is? I'd really like to know,
                All my life I been a foster child with no place in mind at to go....

The  removal  of children from  their families and communities  has long-lasting and often
devastating consequences. The  breaking of  the bonds that connect children to family  and
community  erodes the transmission of culture, of language, of belonging, and of identity. There
is no doubt that there are circumstances in which the well-being of a child requires that changes
be made  in who is to be entrusted with the responsibility for care. However, there is equally no
doubt that child welfare systems across the country are plagued by serious shortcomings: bonds
are broken unnecessarily; structural failings undermine parents' well-being and their capacity to
provide adequately for their children; children, once removed, have limited or no access to their
cultural roots; and racism is embedded in structures, practices, and individual encounters.
       The  scale upon which Indigenous and African Canadian children have been taken from
their families continues to generate deep impacts in a variety of ways. Some examples: the
number  of murdered and missing Indigenous women  and girls; human trafficking of Indigenous
youth; the  over-policing of neighbourhoods  with concentrations of predominately  African
Canadian or Indigenous people. In these ways, and others, the larger legal infrastructure supports
the taking of Indigenous and African Canadian children by first breaking apart families, then
devaluing cultures, language, identity, and lives and subsequently cycling their lives through the
justice system. The taking of Indigenous children in disproportionate numbers is an active
tentacle in the ongoing colonial project. Removing African Canadian children from their families
takes aim against the community to the advantage of the existing power structure. All aided by
law. Therefore, though more  will be required, it is necessary that law, which provides the
authority for state child welfare systems to continue to take Indigenous and African Canadian
children in disproportionately high numbers, must change because the harm-too often dressed
up  as justice-continues to oppress Indigenous and African Canadian children, families, and
communities  from cradle to grave.
       On  21  October  2016  the Journal of  Law  and  Social Policy  (JLSP) co-hosted  a
symposium,  together with the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, the
African Canadian Legal Clinic, and The Action Group  on Access to Justice (TAG) of the Law
Society of Ontario. Called Reimagining Child Welfare Systems in Canada, it brought together
community  members,  practitioners, academics, and students to explore how state child welfare
systems have failed Indigenous and African Canadian communities and to share alternatives that
communities  have implemented, planned, and/or imagined. With the exception of the article by
Kate Bezanson,  the contributions to this Issue of the JLSP-and another that will follow in the
coming  months-arise  from the symposium  and the conversations during a day-long workshop
for presenters that followed the public event.
       Awareness  of the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in child welfare systems
across the country has existed since the 1980s and has increased sharply since the release of the
Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the launching of several

'April Isadore, Kokum's House, this volume.


Published by Osgoode Digital Commons, 2018

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