Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Carol Hopkins, RSW, the Chief Executive Officer of the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, about the College’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion as well as our Indigenous outreach efforts. My conversation with Carol was thought-provoking and inspiring, and led me to reflect further on the progress the College has made as an organization. I’d like to share some of it with you – our members – in this message.
Increasing diversity, equity and inclusion is a strategic priority in the College’s 2020-2023 Strategic Plan. As part of this priority, the College seeks to develop partnerships with Indigenous communities to begin to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action within the regulatory context. We recognize that forming these partnerships requires that we reflect critically upon our assumptions and examine how our policies, practices and processes may play a role in perpetuating systemic oppression.
We are very pleased to have Dr. Carol Hopkins as the keynote speaker for this year’s Annual Meeting and Education Day (AMED) on June 10th, with a presentation focusing on Indigenous mental wellness. Carol, who is of the Lenape Nation and a renowned expert on Indigenous mental wellness, has spent more than 25 years in the field of First Nations substance use and mental health. I believe we will all benefit greatly from listening to Carol speak.
Over the past few years, we have prioritized the creation of resources focused on anti-racist and anti-oppressive social work and social service work practice. Most recently, we were fortunate to interview Cheryl McPherson, RSW, a Haudenosaunee woman, about ethical and competent responses to anti-Indigenous racism and other relevant subjects – from police involvement in mental wellness checks to land acknowledgements and more. This resource is presented in a spoken-word format inspired by the rich storytelling traditions of First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples living in Canada. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to watch our discussion with Cheryl.
We recognize that social workers and social service workers serve diverse communities across Ontario. As we have mentioned in previous communications, we are in the midst of conducting a comprehensive review of the College’s Standards of Practice to help ensure that the professional standards which guide members’ practice are current, responsive and inclusive. The first phase of this review included a consultative process with input from members from diverse backgrounds, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. We believe that this work will ultimately lead to more inclusive Standards of Practice that are reflective of our members and the communities they serve. We look forward to sharing the next steps in the review process with you soon.
I must emphasize that there is much for the College to learn and unlearn in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion – and much work remains. However, with the warmer days ahead, I remain both determined and optimistic about what we can achieve.
Before I end this message, I want to thank you for continuing to practise ethically and professionally, in service to your communities. These remain difficult and uncertain times for many, and we appreciate the work that you do!
Lise Betteridge, MSW, RSW
Registrar and CEO
Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers