Ontario Court of Justice Presentation Dr Stewart Jan 15.2014
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  • Thus you want to ensure that the actions you take consider what the problems are for people in the shelters, how their past and culture influences their decision making and how it can help in creating a positive outcome, what outcomes do you, the relevant organisations, and the people who are accessing the shelters, want to achieve, and how will these goals reduce the problems they are experiencing and improve their lives. Finally, you want to assess how you can reduce the problems the individuals in the shelters are experiencing and what you can do to help reduce the problems and improve their lives, while taking into account their culture, and goals. <br />

Ontario Court of Justice Presentation Dr Stewart Jan 15.2014 Ontario Court of Justice Presentation Dr Stewart Jan 15.2014 Presentation Transcript

  • Ontario Court of Justice, Judicial Development Institute 15 January 2014 Walking the line between Western and Indigenous community ethics: Systemic biases against Aboriginal Peoples in family court Dr. Suzanne L. Stewart, PhD, C.Psych Applied Psychology & Human Development OISE/University of Toronto
  • Two main reasons why the Ontario Justice system should learn about Indigenous cultures: 1) Aboriginal conceptions of the world, including psychology, parenting, and social behaviors, differ from western worldviews in major ways 2) There is an over-representation of Aboriginal children and families in the child welfare system
  • 1. Differences in identity & worldviews Indigenous paradigm • Collectivist orientation • Non linear perspective • Time orientation (general) • Oneness with nature • Holistic: spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual • Health/wellness focus Western paradigm • Individualist orientation • Linear perspective • Time orientation (specific) • Humans against nature; hierarchical • Dualism: Cartesian split • Illness/disease focus (Duran, 2006)
  • Indigenous paradigm & Western paradigm The extent of these differences in worldviews indicates that child welfare and judiciary process should be reconsidered in order to incorporate Indigenous conceptions of ethics, families, parenting, ethics, and social behaviors. (Blackstock, & Trocme 2005; Bennett & Blackstock, 2002).
  • There is a need for more systemic exploration of Indigenous approaches and practices to child welfare and ethical legal decision making in family court that are seen to be successful in today’s communities, because most currently existing research and legal decisions focus on the problems (from the western paradigm) and not the health and healing strengths and solutions (from an Indigenous paradigm).
  • 2. Over-representation • In 2006, about 160,000 First Nations peoples in Ontario—23% of Canadian First Nations population (Statistics Canada, 2006 Census) – 1.3% of the population in Ontario First Nations children (aged zero to 19) constituted 2% of the child population in Ontario; an additional 1% of the child population was non-First Nations Aboriginal (Statistics Canada, 2006 Census). • Aboriginal children comprise 3% of the overall child population in Ontario. • 21% of all provincial Crown Wards are Aboriginal (Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, 2010a; Statistics Canada, 2006 Census). (Kozlowski, Sinha, & Richard 2011)
  • Why? The impact of colonization practices (historical and current) on Indigenous health and family functioning across Canada has been summed up by as the destruction and discontinuity of the structure of community and family, and the transmission of traditional knowledge and values, such as an Indigenous paradigm of health and wellness (Kirmayer et al. (2000).
  • • In Canada, this has involved various processes (from 1492 to present) including cultural assimilation tactics to destroy Native cultural identity & community by enforced Federal and Provincial government legislation through: – relocation from traditional lands and confinement to reserves – Parents and children (through many generations) suffering prolonged separation from family, culture, and traditional lands by forced placement in residential schools – Forced adoption (Sixties Scoop), crown wardships, child welfare laws and “reform” that historically and currently remove children from Aboriginal families, communities, and culture – loss of control of self and community governance, including language, religion, land use, food sources, clan structure, etc. i.e., colonial rule – gradual involvement in national and global economics – historic and continued political and social marginalization – more efforts too numerous to itemize (Kirmayer et al., 2000).
  • What is Residential School? •Extensive school system set up by the Canadian government and administered by churches
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  • What is Residential School? • Primary objectives were to forcibly – Remove and isolate children form the influence of their homes, families and cultures – To assimilate them into the dominant culture
  • “To kill the Indian in the child.” Based on assumption that Aboriginal cultural beliefs and spirituality were inferior and unequal to EuroCanadian Christian ones
  • • July 2008 Prime Minister Harper made an official apology to Aboriginal peoples • “Today we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.”
  • Residential School Facts • About 150,000 Aboriginal children from 1870s to 1990s • Min of 3000 children are known to have died, 500 are children whose identities are unknown • Disease was major killer (tuberculosis, flu) – Second to malnutrition, drowning, exposure • Many victims of physical assualt and sexual abuse • Many died trying to run away or by suicide. (Mass, 2013)
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  • The legacy of colonization: social determinants of health As a result of colonial history, Aboriginal peoples experience a broad range of health issues, many of which lead Aboriginal people to suffer from among the poorest health levels in the country.
  • • The mental health implications of this colonial history for communities and individuals include high rates (compared to non-Aboriginal pops.) of: – Grief and loss – Depression – Suicide – Trauma – Family violence – Substance abuse – Sexual abuse – And more (Duran, 2006; Health Canada, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, 2003 Kirmayer, et al., 2000; Waldram, 2004).
  • Colonial Present Aboriginal peoples continue to live under colonial oppression: When non-Aboriginal forms (i.e. Western) of mental health care/education/law are used with Aboriginal peoples this is considered oppressive and further marginalizing because it denies and de-legitimizes Indigenous ways of knowing, learning, and being.
  • • What this cultural context means is that Native peoples may view Western professionals, including those within the judiciary system, with mistrust due to past or ongoing experiences of colonial trauma or oppression.
  • Addressing this colonial history of racism and bias today means making SYSTEMIC CHANGES
  • Ethical Decision Making There are five steps involved in making ethical decisions: 1. Understand the people involved and how the culture and background has influenced their behaviour. 2. Assess the goals of the organisation and the participants and determine the best way to achieve those goals and how achieving those goals will improve the lives of the participants and reduce their harm. 3. Assess the harm that the participants are experiencing, what are the best interests of the participants. 4. Assess ways to minimize the harm. 5. Determine what can be done to minimize the harm and produce positive outcomes.
  • Cultural Context: Aboriginal Communities Ethical principles are key when working within members of Aboriginal communities. This includes building respectful and reciprocal relationships, as well as adopting an Aboriginal paradigm of health and healing to support Native communities to more effectively deal with their parenting, family, legal, and health and healing issues.
  • Examples of Aboriginal Ethics and Principles A. Seven Grandfather Teachings B. Traditional Native Code of Ethics
  • A. Seven Grandfather Teachings Among the Anishinaabe people, the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, also known simply as either the Seven Teachings or Seven Grandfathers, is a set of teachings on human conduct towards others. Background •According to the aadizookaan (traditional story), the teachings were given to the Anishinaabeg early in their history. Seven Grandfathers asked their messenger to take a survey of the human condition. At that time the human condition was not very good. Eventually in his quest, the messenger came across a child. After receiving approval from the Seven Grandfathers, tutored the child in the “Good way of Life”. Before departing from the Seven Grandfathers, each of the Grandfathers instructed the child with a principle.
  • Seven Grandfather Teachings •Nibwaakaawin—Wisdom: To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom. Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people. In the Anishinaabe language, this word expresses not only “wisdom,” but also means “prudence,” or “intelligence.” In some communities, Gikendaasowin is used; in addition to “wisdom,” this word can also mean “intelligence” or “knowledge.” •Zaagi’idiwin—Love: To know Love is to know peace. Love must be unconditional. When people are weak they need love the most. In the Anishinaabe language, this word with the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual. In some communities, Gizhaawenidiwin is used, which in most context means “jealousy” but in this context is translated as either “love” or “zeal”. Again, the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual. •Minaadendamowin—Respect: To honor all creation is to have Respect. All of creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish to be respected. Some communities instead use Ozhibwaadenindiwin or Manazoonidiwin. •Aakode’ewin—Bravery: Bravery is to face the foe with integrity. In the Anishinaabe language, this word literally means “state of having a fearless heart.” To do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant. Some communities instead use either Zoongadikiwin (“state of having a strong casing”) or Zoongide’ewin (“state of having a strong heart”). •Gwayakwaadiziwin—Honesty: Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave. Always be honest in word and action. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean “righteousness.” •Dabaadendiziwin—Humility: Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean “compassion.” You are equal to others, but you are not better. Some communities instead express this with Bekaadiziwin, which in addition to “humility” can also be translated as “calmness,” “meekness,” “gentility” or “patience.” •Debwewin—Truth: Truth is to know all of these things. Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.( (Bouchard & Martin, 2009)
  • B. Traditional Native Code of Ethics •• Give thanks to the Creator each morning upon rising and each evening before sleeping. • Seek the courage and strength to be a better person. • Showing respect is a basic law of life. • Respect the wisdom of people in council. • Once you give an idea it no longer belongs to you, it belongs to everyone. • Be truthful at all times. • Always treat your guests with honour and consideration. • Give your best food and comfort to your guests. • The hurt of one is the hurt of all. • The honour of one is the honour of all. • Receive strangers and outsiders kindly. • All races are children of the Creator and must be respected. • To serve others; to be of use to family, Community or nation is one of the main purposes for which people are created. • Observe moderation and balance in all things. • Know and practice those things that lead to your wellbeing, and avoid those that lead to your destruction. • Listen to and follow the guidance given to your heart. Expect guidance to come in many forms; in prayer, in dreams, in solitude and in the words and actions of Elders and real friends. Copley, J. (1987, August). Native Code of Ethics. Western Native News, Lethbridge, Alberta.
  • Family Court processes could be reconceptualized and practiced differently to emphasize EMPOWERMENT rather than OPPRESSION. How?
  • • Aboriginal CULTURES, beginning at the local level of community, must be incorporated into all aspects of the judicial system from values/ethics, language, to science, to storytelling, to traditional medicines and healing practices, to Indigenous ways of knowing…which can begin by educating the system about the history and culture of Aboriginal peoples.
  • Then… Considering these aspects of culture within the ethical decision making process when working with Aboriginal families…
  • We can work together to end systemic bias by employing an Aboriginal worldview… • Contemporary Aboriginal worldviews fundamentally identify and embed Aboriginal community participation in the development of individual identities and perspectives within all practices and CONSIDERING THE COLONIAL CONTEXT, and is a multi-dimensional and continuous process (Stewart, 2007, 2008, 2009).
  •  In practice this may mean inviting local Aboriginal community members into the court system context to help inform decision making, work with the children or youth or parents, or support the western trained professionals (lawyers, judges, child welfare workers) in identifying important cultural elements; to bring in local cultural knowledge that may include spirituality, language, parenting, family, health, healing, or values/principles.
  •  It means holding a perspective that respects the colonial history that individual children, youth, adults, families, and communities may carry with them into the courtroom and understanding the impact that history has on mental health and family functioning for each person.
  • It means understanding that… Healing for Aboriginal peoples is about healing from the traumas of colonialism… and in this context of families and mental health, the child welfare system and residential school are major sites of multiple traumas….
  • • This understanding gives us all an opportunity to create a new relationship between Aboriginal peoples and western institutions, such as the judicial system, to end the trauma and begin the healing by inviting Aboriginal culture and community into Western judicial systems
  • To summarize: Important elements in considering Aboriginal ethics • • • • Colonial History Relationship Empowerment Culture • (Stewart 2009; Winselett et al, 2005)
  • Group Discussion and Closure What did you find useful in this presentation? What have you learned that will change how you view and practice law? With Aboriginal families? With all people? Any questions or comments?
  • Miigwetch Mahsi Cho suzanne.stewart@utoronto.ca
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