Indigenous Perspectives in Family Law Webinar
This important and popular webinar raised over $1,000.00 for the First Nations Family and Child Caring Society, the charity chosen by our presenters!
This webinar, attended by almost 200 people, offered so much to participants. Not only did Linda Nothing and Kayla Vaiu speak from their own experience, but they provided insights into the complexity and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Kayla had reached out to members of her community in advance to deepen her perspective; she offered by example a learning and sharing approach that engaged her community.
Here are some highlights, but I encourage everyone who wants Canada to succeed in the 21st century to take the time to experience the whole webinar:
- Land acknowledgements matter – they encourage you and your participants to research and appreciate the history of Indigenous peoples in your community, and more importantly make Indigenous participants feel welcome;
- Indigenous peoples in Canada – First Nations, Inuit, and Metis, are diverse, with a plethora of languages and dialects, as well as differing historical and modern stories;
- Canada and those who came here from Europe (primarily) have tried over many centuries to destroy Indigenous culture, language, religion practices and peoples;
- The Indian Act is the statute that expresses the federal government’s perspective on their constitutional responsibility. It requires a major overhaul, or to be repealed. It is not only racist, it is also anti-women;
- There are excellent resources to help you if you want more information about the history of Indigenous peoples – The Guide for Lawyers Working with Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Committee Calls To Action are great places to start;
- There is a deep connection between Residential Schools, the Sixties Scoop, and the current overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system and adults in the incarcerated population. Indigenous families have intergenerational trauma that makes them suspicious of the justice system because racism and sexism is their lived experience of the Canadian justice system;
- Many may have internalized shame from their experience of being told that they are “less”, from being shamed for the use of their language, and the expression of their culture;
- Everyone should accept how an individual names themself; there are people who identify as Indian, Native, Aboriginal etc., and their self-identity must be respected;
- For many Indigenous people, the members of the group of people they live and interact with (the historical context of Band) are all their family. There is little or no distinction between your own children, and your sibling’s or cousin’s children. Who is a parent changes and evolves over time as people play a parental role in your life and gain respect;
- There is a collective sense of responsibility and connection to all of the children in the Band, and collective respect and adherence to the rules of the adults. This communal approach can be difficult for those who work with families to understand, and it’s easy to offend and make assumptions about the relative importance of relationships.
Our colleagues offered suggestions about what we can do to make us more sensitive and aware:
- Educate ourselves about the history and traditions of any families we work with do not make assumptions;
- Be more respectful of the disproportionate emotional labour of our Indigenous colleagues who are constantly asked about their heritage, meaning of things, how to name them, and to participate as experts;
- Be more aware of unconscious bias – what are you doing to be more critical of media bias, eg. rail shutdowns, ‘protecting their land” rather than “breaking the law”
- Be aware of indigenous traditions in meetings, eg. take shoes off, do not take notes, be more personal and willing to share your own history, show you are present through real listening, give space and respect through food and water and breaks, use a circle and not a table, bring a gift if you are asking people to share their expertise and experience.
If you missed the webinar or would like to see it again you can access it in the FDRIO archives. We will feature this webinar again in the upcoming months.