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October 2021

Decolonizing Child Welfare Webinar Learning Series – Oct 29 @ 2 PM

Please join us as we launch the first Child Welfare Webinar Learning Series.

This launch will consist of an overview of the child welfare system and the role of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto. We will look at the child welfare systems in the historical injustices against Indigenous children and families and the impact of the resulting intergenerational trauma.

The Webinar will explain the history of NCFST in relation to its provincial child welfare mandate, provide an overview of the core interventions and services that are offered from referral to case closure and tell the story of our efforts to provide prevention and early intervention to mitigate the harms caused by colonial child welfare services.

Webinars in this Learning Series will be recorded and posted on the NCFST website as the series evolves to be available to the community and the families we serve.

Register here: https://nativechild.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_bX7M3X_pQVy_xQsu0vvLqA

September 2021

Decolonizing Child Welfare Webinar Panel September 30, 2021

Thank you to the 1246 individuals who joined us today in our discussion on what Indigenous child welfare could look like in five years. Today, we announced our commitment to open a new chapter in our ongoing work with our vision of transforming child welfare which will be transparent, accountable and community-led.

Our full announcement can be viewed here.

Miigwetch to our host Bob Goulais and the panelists:

  • Jocelyn Formsma, Executive Director, National Association of Friendship Centres;
  • Irwin Elman, Former Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth;
  • Pat Green, Traditional Knowledge Keeper;
  • Micheal Miller, Executive Director, Association of Native Child and Family Services Agencies of Ontario
  • Jeffrey Schiffer, Executive Director, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto

Below is the recorded webinar for viewing.

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NCFST announces commitment to launch the next phase in its on-going work to decolonize child welfare services in the city of Toronto

Every Child Matters

Following Call to Action #80 of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, on September 30th 2021, Canadians are observing the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a day to honour residential school survivors, their families, and communities, and to commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools.

The discovery of thousands of unmarked graves on the sites of Canada’s residential schools has resulted in a belated Canadian public awakening to the genocide of the residential school system and recognition of the deep trauma and impact of the residential school system on Indigenous children and families.

The harmful impact of residential schools has been exacerbated by the Sixties Scoop and the continuing overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care, with many separated from their families, extended family, and community. Responding to this continuing reality, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission dedicated the first 5 of its 94 Calls to Action to the reform and redesign of child welfare services delivered to Indigenous families and communities. Declarations from current and former authorities have reiterated the need for transformation:

  • Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott called the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in government care a “humanitarian crisis.”
  • Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues Jill Dunlop stated that Children and youth in care experience significantly worse outcomes than those in a family setting, such as lower graduation rates, a higher risk of homelessness and more involvement with the justice system.
  • Chairman of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission Murray Sinclair said there are more children in Canada’s child-welfare system today than there were at the height of residential schools.

NCFST History and Role in the Child Welfare System

On September 30th, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto will be honouring the lives lost and survivors of the residential schools and their families with a day of ceremony and reflection on our journey to decolonize child welfare services for urban Indigenous children, families and communities. We will reflect on the road we have traveled so far, and the road still to be traveled ahead. In 1986 NCFST was established by Elders, Knowledge Keepers, grassroots leaders and community members, and in 2004 NCFST accepted a provincial mandate to deliver child welfare services as a major step in the quest to decolonize child welfare in the city of Toronto. By accepting this mandate, NCFST and the Indigenous community understood that we were taking a strategic step in the journey to decolonization. While being subject to mainstream standards for child welfare services, NCFST has pushed the envelope in evolving strong, culturally grounded Indigenous child and family well-being services. Having now provided service to a generation of Indigenous children in the country’s largest urban setting, NCFST has become an expert in innovation to mitigate the continuing harm of colonial child welfare policies. This has been accomplished by focusing on evolving the integration of holistic, prevention-focused child and family well-being services in collaboration with Indigenous communities and service providers in Toronto.

NCFST Announcement

Today, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto launches the next step in our journey to redesign child welfare services. Following Calls to Action number #2 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions 94 Calls to Action, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto is making the following commitment:

Native Child and Family Services of Toronto commits to prepare and deliver, beginning on September 30th, 2022, an annual report on the progress of our efforts to redesign child welfare services. This report will include, in accordance with the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the number of Aboriginal children in care in the city of Toronto compared to the number of non-aboriginal children, the reasons for apprehension, the total spending on holistic and prevention services compared to spending on child welfare investigation, ongoing services and alternative care, and a report on the effectiveness of interventions to reduce the number of children in care and keep Indigenous children with their extended families and communities when child welfare interventions are unavoidable.

To meet these commitments, we are today announcing that, beginning this October, we will be inviting representatives of Indigenous people in Toronto who have worked with us either as service partners or as recipients of our services to join a Community Advisory Circle to help us examine our practices and identify priorities for child welfare redesign. We will turn to the advice and guidance of those with wisdom and lived experience to help us succeed in our redesign of Indigenous child welfare services in the city of Toronto.

In addition, beginning in October, we will also be launching a bi-monthly Decolonizing Child Welfare Learning Series for community and partners devoted to explaining and examining the Child and Family Wellbeing services that the agency provides to Toronto’s Indigenous community. The Learning Series will begin with an overview of the current state of Indigenous child welfare services in Toronto, including a review of the challenges and opportunities for redesign in the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, the enactment of Bill C-92 and the Child Welfare Redesign initiatives in the province of Ontario. Development of the Learning Series modules will require Native Child and Family Services of Toronto to undergo a critical examination of our child and family wellbeing services, including standards, service eligibility criteria, assessment tools and current practices. The purpose of this critical examination will be to identify priorities for redesign to reduce the number of Indigenous children in care and ensure that all Indigenous children in care are placed with extended family or, at minimum, in their communities with strong connections to their families.

We are making these commitments today, this first Day for Truth and Reconciliation, to honour those children who never made it home, the survivors of Canada’s residential schools and their families. We acknowledge the Truth that Indigenous children continue to be overrepresented in child welfare systems and continue to suffer separation from their families, communities and culture. Native Child and Family Services of Toronto has now served a generation of Indigenous children in the City of Toronto and continues to mitigate the harms of colonial child welfare services by evolving strong, culturally grounded, Indigenous Child and Family Well Being services that keep children connected to family, community and culture. But there is more to do. Every September 30th we will gather with community and report back on our progress in our journey to decolonize child welfare services and to do our part to ensure that the tragedy and trauma of the Indian Residential School System and the Sixties Scoop will never happen again.

An Elder once asked, if it takes three days to walk into the bush, how many days will it take to walk back out again? The answer, of course, is three days. Canada’s colonial legacy runs deep, and we know it will take many years to address it. We must walk together at a brisk pace not only for all the children we have lost walking into the bush, but for all of those who have and will be born as we walk out again.

Select here to view the recorded announcement

For Media Inquiries contact:
Freida Gladue
Manager of Communications and Culture
437-244-2816
[email protected]
 

24th Annual Community Pow Wow – virtual event and community giveaway day

We invite you to join us on Saturday, September 25 at 12pm for the 24th Annual Community Pow Wow! You can join our virtual event via our Facebook page Livestream and/or drop by one of our locations on September 25th at noon to pick up a “Giveaway kit”.

Giveaway kits include: An “Every Child Matters” orange shirt, a take-away taco, and a bundle of medicines.

Giveaway Kit Locations:

Virtual Pow Wow Tune in to Facebook Live on Saturday, September 25th for awesome virtual programming:

12:00 PM Traditional Opening with Knowledge Keeper Pat Green. Community Message from NCFST Executive Director, Dr Jeffrey Schiffer.  “Every Child Matters” Memorial Song – Young Creek Big Drum

1:00 PM Live from Mount Dennis Aboriginal Child & Family Centre Medicine Garden Walk-Through with Ojibikaans

1:30 PMLive from Native Youth Resource Centre Jingle Dress Dancers

2:00 PMLive from Malvern Aboriginal Child & Family Centre Hoop Dance Demonstration

2:30 PMLive from Scarborough Child & Family Life Centre – All Nations Juniors Big Drum

Please like, comment, and share this event for a chance to win an “Every Child Matters Flag” and other great prizes! 

Decolonizing Child Welfare Webinar Panel – Sept 30th, 2021 @ 9:00 AM

We invite you to join us on Thursday, September 30th, 2021 for Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Native Child and Family Services of Toronto will mark the day with an event to announce important new commitments dedicated to our continuing journey to decolonize Indigenous child welfare services in the city of Toronto. Our host and moderator, Bob Goulais will welcome a panel of community leaders who will be speaking on the challenges and opportunities for transforming child welfare services following the first five Calls to Action of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  What might Indigenous child welfare services look like five years from now?

Register here: https://nativechild.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_XBskgKNFS3SdPk1Xv2IxPQ

June 2021

Canada Day: A time for reflection

Today, on Canada Day, Canadians find themselves standing at a crossroads.  For the past 153 years, Canada Day provided a chance for Canadians to celebrate the remarkable country they call home and the people they share it with. Today, many Canadians are torn between celebration and reflection.

This spring, Canada woke to dead Indigenous children buried in their backyards and to the dawning realization that Canada committed a genocide. Within this horrific landscape, it’s easy to see a schism in the fabric of the national identity: on one hand, Indigenous people who have known about genocide for generations, and on the other side, Canadians who are being confronted with their role in this shameful legacy.

There’s a lot to confront.  How can it be that this country, with its national identity so firmly grounded in politeness that its largest city was once nicknamed “Toronto the Good” be complicit in genocide?  How can there be something as evil as genocide in a country so loved around the world that travelers sew Canadian flags onto their backpacks to be recognized for what we believe we are:  kind, inclusive, welcome, diverse, and above all “good”.  Canadians are good people.  Canadians are nice people who humble brag in memes about being polite, with family values front and centre, and leading the world in practices that support diversity, equity, and inclusion.

By and large, Canadians are all these things. And Canadians are also complicit in genocide. The Indian Act of 1876 was created by a new nation designed to assimilate the original inhabitants of the land. Canadians are now beginning the hard work of understanding why this Act was so wrong and why it has such detrimental consequences today.

Canadians have long tried to normalize or ignore the inequities found in Indigenous communities; this cannot continue. The genocide that Canada has committed has killed Indigenous children, annihilated identity, stolen land, reshaped our values and made our relations toxic. This has resulted in communities that continue to struggle to this day. Our ambitions as a people are more than just being resilient and alive, we want to thrive and have a life of quality that is not less than but equal to Canadians. Indigenous resilience can only be as strong as our weakest link. Sadly, the statistics do not tell a kind story here. Indigenous youth are killing themselves at rates much higher than other Canadian populations and Indigenous people fail to attain the longevity of life of the typical Canadian and are burdened with far more health inequities than should be just. The result is a humanitarian crisis occurring in plain sight. Genocide has long-lasting impacts and consequences. It cannot be addressed with “kind remarks and good wishes”.  True accountability and meaningful action remain elusive.  Concrete action has been replaced with denial, blame, racism, hate and so the injustice continues. The burden of truth-sharing now rests on the shoulders of dead children, speaking to Canadians from the grave. We hope Canadians are listening to the former students who are now our teachers in healing and reconciliation.

Canada is not a perfect dominion. For communities that have been marginalized, there is little to celebrate in the grand story of Canada. Canada, in its current form, benefited from the policies of the Indian Residential Schools and continues to benefit from contemporary policies that harm Indigenous peoples. From the Indigenous perspective, the Dominion of Canada is simply not living up to its ideals. Many Canadians say the way forward is not to stop aspiring to be a better people. Many Canadians will not celebrate Canada for what it has been in the past but will celebrate it for what they want it to be in the future. Many folks want to celebrate Canada while also acknowledging the atrocities committed. The absurdity of this juxtaposition is not lost but also somehow speaks to the complexities of the relationships and issues at hand. Canada’s independence was born from Indigenous dispossession of land and the promise of reciprocity and treaty-making; a sharing of the bounty with obligations established on both sides. Celebrating the birth of a Nation and its independence should be a source of pride. As Indigenous people, we know all too well that self-government and independence is vital to a Nation’s identity, prosperity, and well-being. There can be no pride in genocide but there can be dignity in doing the right thing. Canada Day is an opportunity for Canadians to get reacquainted with treaty making and for Canadians to better understand their obligations as treaty holders.

Canadians can choose to celebrate, and Indigenous people can grieve, and this can be done side-by-side. The Haudenosaunee people and early settlers created a road map for sharing the bounty of this land; a path to being two nations traveling side-by-side. This covenant was recorded in the Two Row Wampum which symbolizes two vessels: one boat is the canoe holding the Haudenosaunee way of life, laws, and people. The other is a European ship complete with their laws, religion, and people. These boats travel together on a shared river, respecting each other as different and distinct.

When we look across the great divide, we see folks who want to celebrate the good that Canada represents to them.  We recognize that Canada has become a place of safety for millions of people from every corner of the earth.  We recognize the contributions to science, to literature, to peacekeeping, and sports.  We see these things through the tears in our eyes and the pain in our hearts.  The promise of the Two Row Wampum and similar covenants and treaties is the promise of respect and self-determination.  It is the promise of the autonomy granted by nationhood.  Democracy at its best is aspirational.  The aspirations of Canada have come at the expense of its original inhabitants.  While the two boats travel separately, they do share the same river.  The waves of genocide rock each boat and both peoples suffer the effects.  For Indigenous people, the impacts are clear.  For Canadians, the effects are subtle but no less profound.  There can be no Reconciliation without Truth.

July 1st is an opportunity for Canadians to reflect; to discuss their role in genocide and to amplify Indigenous issues in privileged spaces that have historically been closed to Indigenous voices.  July 1st is also an opportunity to visit with family, to celebrate what is good in this young and troubled nation.  An Elder once said, “Creator gave us the gift of this good life, and it’s our choice to walk each day with joy and gratitude”.  Celebrate what is joyous to you, acknowledge what you feel gratitude for. Pause. Reflect.

Canada Day will look different this year. People will wear orange.  Some will protest.  Others will host family gatherings or attend fireworks celebrations.  We are, after all, a fractured nation and people are finding their way through this unknown landscape.  On July 2, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto will be hosting a Sacred Fire for Community Healing and Wellness at our 30 College location.  The fire is an opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to gather in sacred space and remember the atrocities that have been committed, honor and remember the children who died, and the families and communities who have been devastated.  It is an opportunity to get grounded in the treaties and covenants of this bountiful land that we share. The effects of genocide echo through time and are still felt today. There can be no Reconciliation without Truth.

“Together we will travel in Friendship and in Peace Forever; as long as the grass is green, as long as the water runs downhill, as long as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, and as long as our Mother Earth will last.”

2020-2021 NCFST Annual Report

Native Child and Family Services of Toronto is pleased to release our 2020-2021 Annual Report. We would like to express our deep gratitude to our partners, funders, and community members for supporting us through this past year of uncertainty, growth, and development. Please read the detailed report for the progress our agency has made during such a challenging year.

In addition to our Annual Report, we have also released our Audited Financial Statements for 2020-2021.

This year’s Annual Report and Financial Statements, as well as previous Annual Reports and Financial Statements, are also available on our Policies and Publications page.

Mount Dennis and Malvern Aboriginal Child and Family Centres

Native Child and Family Services of Toronto recently opened the Mount Dennis Malvern Aboriginal Child and Family Centre and the Malvern Aboriginal Child and Family Centre.  These multi-service centres will have several services including an EarlyON and Aboriginal Head Start programs and will provide children, parents and caregivers access to culturally responsive programs and services in an inclusive and welcoming space that supports their well-being, enriches their cultural knowledge, and provides opportunities to strengthen relationships. Along with early years programming, the centre will also provide supports for community members across all ages, including youth programming and Elder/Senior wellness programs.

Some of the programs and services that will be offered are drop-in and group programs, sharing circles, access to Knowledge Keepers and Elders on-site and ongoing parent and education supports, pre and post-natal programs in partnership with the Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto, Mommy Matters and Parenting Together Programs. One permanent Zhishay (uncle) to support fathers, and one Ninoshe (auntie) to support mothers. Regular ceremonies will be offered with cultural teachings, language and/or community events including weekly family cultural nights and seasonal feasts and drum socials. The outdoor features a play and ceremonial space that includes a medicinal garden a fire pit and a sweat lodge.

Children aged 0 to 6 will have access to play-based learning in a culture of inquiry and experience positive developmental, spiritual, and physical health and well-being. Aboriginal families and caregivers will be able to strengthen their relationships with their children with the help of services and tools provided by the centre including on the land programming. As a community, at this centre, we will have a chance to build positive relationships with local service providers, including other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal agencies to ensure that collaborative and integrated services are available to Aboriginal children and families that meet their unique needs.

We are beyond grateful to the following funders and friends for their support in creating these multi-service centres. We could not have done it without you all!

Mt. Dennis Aboriginal Child and Family Centre – Virtual Grand Opening

Today on National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21, 2021, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST) is both excited and honoured to announce the opening of Mount Dennis Aboriginal Child and Family Centre, located at 1290 Weston Road in York. This new multi-service centre will have several services including an EarlyON and the Kiiwednong Aboriginal Head Start program that will provide children, parents and caregivers access to culturally responsive programs and services in an inclusive and welcoming space that supports their well-being, enriches their cultural knowledge, and provides opportunities to strengthen relationships. Along with early years programming, the centre will provide supports for community members across all ages, including youth programming and Elder/Senior wellness programs.

This virtual grand opening will include a walk-through of the new site, video statements from Faisal Hassan, MPP for York South-Weston and Katharine Bambrick, the CEO of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, as well as live speeches from Mayor John Tory, Dr. Jeffrey Schiffer, Executive Director of Native Child and Family Service of Toronto, and a traditional opening with a Community Grandmother.

The Centre will provide integrated services for Aboriginal children, families and caregivers that are culture-based and designed to engage parents and caregivers, support early learning and development, make connections for families, and meet the unique needs of Toronto’s Aboriginal community.

“We are envisioning these hubs as intergenerational spaces so we can see young kids engaging and interacting with their parents, but then also coming back for a culture night or a community ceremony with their grandparents, older siblings, and their friends, and I think having all of those generations interacting in one place is going to be very supportive for the community.” ~ Dr. Jeffrey Schiffer

Some of the programs and services that will be offered are drop-in and group programs, sharing circles, access to Knowledge Keepers and Elders on-site and ongoing parent and education supports, pre and post-natal programs in partnership with the Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto, Mommy Matters and Parenting Together Programs. One permanent Zhishay (uncle) to support fathers, and one Ninoshe (auntie) to support mothers. Regular ceremonies will be offered with cultural teachings, language and/or community events including weekly family cultural nights and seasonal feasts and drum socials. The outdoor features a play and ceremonial space that includes a medicinal garden a fire pit and a sweat lodge.

Children aged 0 to 6 will have access to play-based learning in a culture of inquiry and experience positive developmental, spiritual, and physical health and well-being. Aboriginal families and caregivers will be able to strengthen their relationships with their children with the help of services and tools provided by the centre including on the land programming. As a community, at this centre, we will have a chance to build positive relationships with local service providers, including other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal agencies to ensure that collaborative and integrated services are available to Aboriginal children and families that meet their unique needs.

A very special Chi Miigwetch to our generous funders. Indigenous Services Canada, City of Toronto Children’s Services, Ontario Trillium Foundation, and the Aboriginal community councils for their collective support. This multi-service centre will provide access to health and wellness for the community in the city of Toronto for years to come.

We are beyond grateful to the following funders and friends for their support in creating these multi-service centres. We could not have done it without you all!

NCFST Celebrates National Indigenous People’s Day

Today, on June 21, we celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day. This is a day where we acknowledge, honour, and participate in the rich and vibrant cultures of the First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities on Turtle Island. It is important that we celebrate this day because Canada has not always celebrated and respected Indigenous peoples, culture, and ceremonial practices. This year, celebrations will look different for two very important reasons. The first reason is that the typical ceremonies, Pow Wows and large community gatherings have been suspended in respect of local public health guidelines and community concern for health and safety. At Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, we are celebrating the Grand Opening of the new Mount Dennis Aboriginal Child and Family Centre. We encourage folks to check out the virtual launch on our website. The other, more somber reason why our collective celebration is different this year has to do with the horrifying discovery last month of the remains of 215 Indigenous children near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the lands of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia.

The spring of 2021 will be forever remembered when Canada woke to the discovery of dead Indigenous children buried in their backyard and to the realization that Canada committed genocide. This visceral and naked moment has prompted many Canadian folks to reflect, educate and seek direction from Indigenous communities. For this we are encouraged. For Indigenous people, it is a reminder that our healing journey is ongoing, and feelings of anguish and anger permeate our consciousness. For this we are loving. For nine days beginning on June 1st 2021, NCFST sites across the GTA hosted Sacred Fires in honour of the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School to acknowledge the painful legacy of the Indian Residential School system. We recognize that more remains have been found and stand ready to support community as we continue our collective journey towards Healing & Reconciliation.

As we stand in the aftermath of the Canadian awakening some hard realities remain. Indigenous children and families continue to suffer due to the heavy burdens of a genocide that echoes through time. Many Canadians have tried to normalize or ignore inequities found in Indigenous communities; we know this cannot continue. We ask folks to visit the Indigenous Spirit Fund at www.indigenousspiritfund.org to learn more about reconciliation and how folks can support decolonization through philanthropy. Native Child and Family Services of Toronto was founded by the urban Aboriginal community of Toronto to address the aftermath of Indian Residential Schools and the over-representation of Indigenous children and families in mainstream child welfare. As an organization, we continue to remake inherited colonial structures and processes in ways that acknowledge, respect and include Indigenous worldview, knowledge systems, values, and approaches.

At NCFST, we believe that inter-generational Indigenous knowledge and practice play a crucial role in the well-being and health of all Indigenous people. Creating opportunities for collective experience and sharing our cultural gifts is how we keep our community strong and children thriving and safe.

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