Honouring and celebrating our members for Children and Youth in Care Day on May 14th, 2023! Click here for the full newsletter.

Wachay, Aanii, Boozhoo, Sago and Hello

The Association of Native Child and Family Services Agencies of Ontario (ANCFSAO) is proud to announce the first of its kind, provincial Indigenous Youth Advisory Council (IYAC) was formally established in January 2023! We would like to express our sincerest gratitude to each and every individual who has offered their support, guidance, and encouragement throughout each phase of development and implementation.

Many hours of engagement with our colleagues, Board of Directors, member agencies and valued Networking Circles, Elders and Knowledge Keepers/Carriers and community members went into the process of ensuring the IYAC was created in a collaborative, inclusive and good way. We continue building new partnerships and collaborations as we embark on this new journey, with special thanks to the Tim Hortons Foundation for hosting our Youth Cultural Retreats and the upcoming events for the IYAC and the Bell Let’s Talk initiative for their donations to our welcome packages for the youth.

We would like to give a big shoutout to our funders at the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada. Thank you for believing in our vision and helping us make the IYAC possible through your continued support and generosity. ANCFSAO would like to acknowledge the many incredible leaders who have been working with our council including Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s Deputy Grand Chief Victor Linklater and legal counsel Kayla Viau, and our Elders, Ernest Beck and Danette Restoule, for always ensuring the IYAC is emotionally, spiritually and culturally supported in a good way. Your guidance, wisdom and love are deeply appreciated. Most importantly, to all the incredible applicants and youth who have been selected to represent their agencies and communities, we thank you for your trust and engaging wholeheartedly throughout this experience. Thank you for your honesty, bravery and courage in sharing your stories. Each and everyone of you have brought love to our hearts and lit fires in our Spirits. Your voices are strong. Your voices matter. Your voices inspire us all to do better. Click here for the full newsletter.

Kaitlin Lickers and Meagan Lindley IYAC Co-Leads, ANCFSAO

Orange Shirt Day – September 30th

Orange Shirt Day is a day when we honour children and youth who attended Residential Schools in Canada.

Orange Shirt Day began when six-year old Phyllis Jack Webstad attended St. Joseph Mission Residential School located in Williams Lake, BC, Canada in 1973. It was her first day and she was wearing her new shiny orange shirt that was bought by her grandmother when the institution stripped her, took away her clothes and replaced it with a school uniform.

Association of Native Child and Family Services Agencies of Ontario (ANCFSAO) is encouraging everyone to get involved by:

Today, September 30th, wear an orange shirt to honour Residential School System survivors, victims, and their families.

Niagara Falls Illumination for Orange Shirt Day
Photo taken by Crystal D. on September 23, 2020

Smudge, Sing, and Learn with the Restoule Siblings

Siblings from Dokis First Nation are here to teach you about smudging and what the Seven Grandfather Teachings mean to them. Liam, Alivia, and Robert offer a prayer, and Danette Restoule, Elder-in-Residence of ANCFSAO, offers a word of wisdom.

HEART and SPIRIT Directive

The Association of Native Child and Family Services Agencies of Ontario (ANCFSAO) is thrilled to announce that MCCSS has issued a policy directive under section 42 of the CYFSA approving the use of HEART and SPIRIT as an alternative to SAFE and PRIDE. This policy directive came into effect on July 7, 2020 after the program was piloted with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous agencies.

Ontario ICWB (Indigenous Child Well Being) agencies and Children’s Aid Societies may now use this program as an alternative to SAFE and PRIDE.

Click here to learn more or to register your agency!

New Resource: Using Your New iPad

Click here for information on how to set up and navigate your new iPad. Sign up for free webinars being offered through ANCFSAO in the last week of July 2020 and first two weeks of August 2020.

New Tool: Find an Agency

Are you looking for information, resources, support, supplies, or an answer to a question? The main offices and local centres of our Member Agencies are all over Ontario and they’re here to help. Visit our newest page to find an agency near you using an interactive map.

Clickable map icons display each agency’s website address, phone number, and location. Wherever you are in Ontario, an Indigenous child and family well being agency is close by and ready to give you the support or information you’re looking for.

Reflections on the 2019 Winter Youth-in-Care Camp

2019’s second youth-in-care camp hosted by ANCFSAO and OACAS wrapped up in November after three days of teachings from Elders, cultural activities, and bonding. The winter camp offered teens ages 14 to 18 the chance to connect with one another during outdoor adventures, sunrise ceremonies, and a movie night.

Luke Nicholas emceed the event with energy and humour, launching the weekend with a circle that included ice breaker games and a personal development exercise. After dinner, Elders Maria Swain and Ernest Beck spoke about culture and healthy relationships.

A common theme emerged as the event’s speakers took their opportunities to teach the group: the youths’ unlimited potential.

“You can do anything you want,” Maria Swain told the teens. “The world is open to you.”

Youth then separated into groups of four or five to decorate black hats with a wild assortment of crafting supplies and colours, all while holdings hands. Participants formed chains and used only the right hand of the person on one end and the left of the person on the other end, helping them find ways to work collaboratively. Each beautiful hat demonstrated that the activity was a success, and that each participant had patiently contributed to their team’s efforts.

Nimkii Osawamick, a world-renowned hoop dancer and entrepreneur, spoke about following many dreams rather than picking one interest to pursue. Relating the story of his developing career in music and dance, as well as his company, Dedicated Native Awareness (DNA), he advised the youths to explore their passions.

“The possibilities for all of you are endless,” he told them. “You don’t have to do just one thing – you can do anything you want to do as long as you are willing to work for it.”

Nimkii gave volunteers the chance to practice hoop dancing moves, and one young woman wore her regalia and danced with him to the beat of the Anishnaabe Abinoojii drum and her drummers, Clarence White, Teddy Copenace, Howard Copenace, and Leslie Copenace.

Activities in the morning and afternoon included women’s teachings with Maria Swain and drum keepers Sherry Copenace and Hazel Copenace, as well as rattle-making with Tim McGregor and land-based teachings with Ernest Beck.

In the beautiful woods of Geneva Park, Ernest showed groups of teens different forms of edible vegetation as well as fungus that would smolder rather than burn and could be used to heat hands during the cold winter months. His eager listeners crashed around the forest, tearing down dead branches and kicking at piles of leaves. Inside, they gathered around Ernest to learn how to create sparks and practice safe fire-keeping.

In women’s teachings, attendees were taught songs and received wisdom from the event’s three female Elders, while in the classroom across the hall rattles were cut out, sewn together, filled with sand, and left to dry overnight.

That night, campers were distracted from Jumanji by craft tables, snacks, hot chocolate, and one another as they chatted throughout the evening. One young woman kept the entire camp entertained with frequent stand-up routines. Staff and campers would gather around her and laugh as she commented on high school, her classmates, and her friends with dry humour.

Each morning, campers and chaperones gathered sleepily around a fire in spite of the November chill to pass and eat berries around a circle and hear from Maria and Ernest, who shared their stories and offered prayers to the young ones for the day. On the third and last day, snow coated the camp, and yet the group around the fire had grown in size.

During the closing ceremony, teens were each given a bundle containing a shell, a sweetgrass braid, cedar, and sage, which were blessed by the drum and prayed over by the Elders. Two young people were given hand drums to thank them for their enthusiasm and for bravely sharing their stories, and each of the campers were sent off in an emotional closing ceremony.

The weekend was an enormous success, made possible by the efforts of all those who came around the youth to support them on their next steps towards adulthood. Special thanks go to the Geneva Park staff, Luke Nicholas for emceeing, Khush Bamboat from OACAS for her support, and the resource people and speakers for contributing their time and wisdom.

Reflections on the 2019 Indigenous Child and Family Well Being Conference

The 2019 Indigenous Child and Family Well Being Conference gathered over three hundred child welfare workers, agency administrators, foster parents, government officials, and many more. From November 19th to the 21st, in the beautiful Casino Rama Resort in Orillia, attendees networked, discussed ideas, and heard from speakers from a range of professional backgrounds, each with a unique message.

The conference began with a sunrise ceremony led by Liz Babin and Bob Sutherland, and an opening ceremony with drums from Anishnaabe Abinoojii Family Services, Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services Inc., and Treaty #9, who reminded attendees of the purpose of the gathering before the week began.

Mike Martin, Executive Director of Native American Community services, set the tone of the gathering by reminding all in attendance to pursue the good mind, friendship, and peace, and to focus on mutuality and respect.

He also reminded the audience that learning to care for oneself is the most important step towards learning to care for others, noting, “Pain not transformed is transferred.”

With that, the first day’s workshops kicked off. Eight presenters led workshops, including Jay Lomax from Native Child and Family Services (NCFST), who led a workshop on the new kin finding unit he supervises and spoke about his experience as an adopted child who reconnected with his biological parents as an adult.

“Culture is coming together,” Mr. Lomax said. “When we are close to our spirit, we do not feel alone.”

In the afternoon, attendees heard from Nathalie Nepton, Executive Director of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), and Vanessa Follon, the Regional Lead for Jordan’s Principle, who answered questions from the audience, and Nicole Bonnie, CEO of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) spoke about the relationship-building journey.

The second day began with Sarah Clarke, Principal, Clarke Child and Family Law, who provided the conference with the history of legal research and advocacy over ten years that led to the landmark ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal finding Canada guilty of racially discriminating against First Nations children on reserve by underfunding our child and family welfare services.

Workshops explored topics such as the healing and recovery journey, wellness serving in a bicultural context, and social determinants of health. Diane Lauzon, Program Supervisor for Kunuwanimano Child and Family Services, led a workshop on recruitment and repatriation that included an exercise that brought participants to tears.

“It was a beautiful, emotional morning,” Ms. Lauzon remarked. “It was productive, but it also made us all feel so bonded.”

The afternoon struck the same note, with Dr. Dirk Huyer, Chief Coroner for Ontario, along with a panel composed of his staff, discussed efforts being made to right past wrongs and move toward a more culturally safe approach to conducting death reviews.

“One youth suicide is way too many,” Dr. Huyer said.

Jesse Ranville, a train conductor and author, and Nyree Kakeeway, a current Social Work MSW student, both spoke about their time in the child welfare system. Though they both had very different stories, they shared similar messages: that the status quo is not acceptable, and that their success stories should not be exceptions to the rule.

Mr. Ranville presented as the ending of the second day approached, and Ms. Kakeeway began the third day with a reminder to always keep the child’s perspective in mind.

“Kids don’t understand policy and the government and why they can’t see their siblings or why it’s so difficult to go on a sleepover or class trip – they only know what they see, and what they see is not good,” Ms. Kakeeway said. “Kids in care very quickly lose their voice, and I’m only gaining mine now, sixteen years after exiting the system.

“People tell me I’m the exception to the rule, but there is no difference between me and any other kid in care, so it shouldn’t be so common that kids don’t make it.”

Both presenters inspired tears in almost every person in the ballroom, and both earned standing ovations.

Before the third day’s workshops began, Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube spoke about the function of his office and the process and benefits of alternative dispute resolution. In the afternoon, Brian Beamish, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, as well as a panel composed of his staff, spoke about the role of the IPC and efforts to ensure data is kept safe.

Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, reflected on her role as well as that of the Ministry, saying, “I believe every issue is an opportunity for us to collaborate and find a solution together.”

The traditional closing ceremony was emotional, as attendees danced a circle around the drums during the farewell song and out into the hall to exchange tearful hugs.

The conference was an enormous success made possible by the astounding efforts of the Kunuwanimano Child and Family Services staff. Special thanks go to emcees Chief Jason Gauthier and Luke Nicholas, Shirley Gillis-Kendall, Jesse St-Jean, Andrea Gagnon, Myles Tabobondung, and Sherry Brown. Casino Rama Resort was a wonderful host, and all in attendance contributed to the dialogue the conference facilitated.

Reflections from the 2019 Elders Gathering

by Bernadette Maracle, Prevention Manager for ANCFSAO

The 2019 Elders Gathering, hosted by Mnaasged Child and Family Services and ANCFSAO, ran for three days from September 24th-26th in Muncee-Delaware Territory, bringing together Elders from Indigenous child and family well-being agencies from across Ontario.

Elders, helpers, and cultural coordinators came together to discuss the future of child welfare. Friends were reunited and new friendships were formed, with hugs, tears, and smiles exchanged constantly throughout the three-day event.

During the gathering, attendees heard amazing words of wisdom about the teaching of the big drum, giving tobacco, honour songs, and women supporting the drums by standing around the men singing and drumming.

The Mnaasged Cultural Coordinator, Nicholas Deleary, spoke on the history of their communities and why the agency operates in Southern Ontario: they are in the centre of a triangle, between three sacred water women points, one being Niagara Falls.

Gordon Peters, Deputy Grand Chief from Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI), spoke about legislation developments concerning Indigenous child welfare and what can be done to improve and correct them.

Beatrice Twance-Hynes, a Juno-nominated hand-drummer, played several of her songs for the group and shared teachings about playing and caring for drums.

Attendees heard a powerful story from an Elder about a men’s healing gathering, his story of years of abuse at a residential school, and his creation of a healing program for men suffering from trauma. 

Larry Jourdain emphasized the concepts of cultural arbitration and cultural congruency over phrases like “culturally appropriate” or “culturally sensitive”, as communities are looking to implement a practise that puts culture at the centre of families’ healing and strengthening.

Nogdawindamin has 26 cultural workers with 800 referrals last year and 600 so far this year. The Cultural Unit covers requests for ceremonies, teachings and workshops, assistance with circles, staff support and team building, events, community support, and collaboration and partnerships. Ceremonies include those dedicated to finding clan and colours, naming, baby-welcoming, walking out, adoption, and reunification. The agency hosts annual events and ceremonies by the season.

Feasts, drumming, and sunrise ceremonies bonded the group and kept discussions and teachings grounded in the culture and surrounding nature, and a karaoke night filled the grounds with music and laughter.

This was my first time attending the annual Elders Gathering. I learned new teachings, made new contacts, and was filled with inspiration. Coming from Six Nations, I do not have very much knowledge of the Anishinaabe traditional teachings and appreciated hearing the teachings and stories from the community.

It was a beautiful event and I look forward to learning even more next year.

Happy Holidays from ANCFSAO

On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff at ANCFSAO,

We wish you all a Safe and Happy Solstice and Holiday Season.

We would also like to acknowledge our members’ frontline staff, management and leadership, for their hard work and dedication in keeping children safe throughout the year and for generations to come.

See you in the New Year!