Both sides of Kenn Richard’s family come from the original Métis and Francophone settlements along the Red and the Assiniboine River in Manitoba. He is of the first generation in his family to be raised in an urban environment and graduate from university. He holds a Masters in Social Work, University of Manitoba, and has been practicing social work, principally within Aboriginal child welfare, since the mid-seventies.
Kenn is founder and until recently was Executive Director of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, a mandated Children`s Aid Society and Children’s Mental Health Center, since 1989.
Kenn has been the recipient of multiple awards including the Toronto Civic Award of Merit, The Aboriginal Affairs Award, The Chief of Police Community Award, and the Salute to the City Award for outstanding civic contribution, the Diamond Jubilee medal in recognition of HRH Elizabeth 60 years on the throne.
In 2016, he was honoured with the Jane Jacobs Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to city life.
In 2018, Kenn received the Meritorious Service Cross, one of the highest civilian honors awarded Canadians, from the Governor General, for his achievements for his actions toward contributing to the quality of Canadian life.
Kenn is a strong children’s advocate at both the national and the local level and is often called to lend advice to government in the field of Native Child Welfare and its related issues. He has appeared as expert witness to the courts and Parliamentary/Legislative committees on matters associated with Native children. He has also been active in the both the print and the visual media on issues associated with the welfare of Native children.
He has been a consultant on a diverse range of projects focused on the interface of Native peoples and the human service system.
Some of Kenn Richard`s contributions include:
- As founding Executive Director of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto he has improved and enhanced services to vulnerable Native children in a critical and difficult arena of Human Services, Child Welfare. The agency is unique as it employs a Native cultural base as its foundation and provides services not typically provided by a Children`s Aid Society. NCFST was the first recipient of the prestigious Ruth Atkinson Hindmarsh Award for excellence in services to vulnerable children. As one of the first and now largest of all off reserve services to Native children NCFST is looked on as a model to emulate.
- Conceived and directed by Kenn, the NCFST building at 30 College St, in Toronto, stands as a testament to Native pride and perseverance. The building is a showcase and has received numerous awards, some international, for its design and its function. It was one of the most visited sites in a recent Open Doors Toronto event.
- As an educator Kenn has contributed to capacity building within social work and within some of the major institutions mandated to serve families and children. Kenn wrote and delivered the first curriculum in cross cultural work at the Faulty of Social Work, University of Toronto and is well known for his seminars and presentations to professionals across the broad spectrum of stakeholders. He authored “The Other Side of the Door: A Practice Guide in Working with Native People”, that is widely used by Children`s Aid Societies across the Province to build their capacity in their work with Native people.
- Kenn is a seasoned lecturer with 20 years of teaching experience and currently teaches two courses, one in Community and Organizational Practice and the other, working with Aboriginal People. He also holds an appointment of Adjunct Professor within the Native Studies program at Trent University.
- He is published in the areas of Child Welfare and urban Native issues. He is considered a national expert in his field. His article, titled “On the Matter of Cross-Cultural Adoptions”, is considered an authoritative one on that topic.
- As an advocate Kenn has been at the forefront of standing up for Native children since the 70`s. He is well known across the Province for his capacity to articulate and persuade stakeholders regarding the needs and aspirations of Native children. Dubbed a “hero” by the Toronto Sun for his efforts he is in great demand as a resource in issues related to Native people and their plight.
- As a community organizer Kenn has contributed extensively in the development of the Toronto community. He is a founder of the Toronto Aboriginal Social Services Association, now TASSC. He played a significant role in ensuring the formal recognition of the Toronto Native community at the time of amalgamation and was instrumental in the establishment of the Aboriginal Affairs Committee of Toronto Council. Kenn chaired the Toronto Aboriginal Research Project, one of the most extensive such research initiatives ever undertaken.
On a provincial level Kenn is a founding member of the Association of Native Child and Family Services of Ontario. He sits a numerous advisory committee such as the Advisory Committee to the Child Welfare Secretariat, Ministry of Children and Youth, and has been called upon for advice by the highest levels of government.
On a national level Kenn is active with both the First Nations Child Caring Society (Vice President) and with the Child Welfare League of Canada (Director and Chair of Aboriginal Task Force). He is an active resource to the Public Health Agency of Canada and sits as an advisory capacity on a national study on child health. Kenn has given advice to Auditor General of Canada in a review of the Child Welfare systems in the Yukon, Nunavut, and the NWT.
Most recently Kenn was appointed as an Expert Advisor to the developing Sixties Scoop Foundation. Here he is charged with engaging survivors of the sixties scoop in crafting a 50 million dollar legacy through a foundation dedicated to their present and future needs and aspirations.
Internationally Kenn has presented as far away as New Zealand and is presently a child sponsor for Plan Canada and a Director of Save the Children, Canada.
As a leader Kenn has led the way in the evolution of off reserve services to Native people. He has over the course of thirty years made significant and tangible contributions to making the future better for Native children in Toronto and across the Province.