Social Work Students to Give Rheal Brant-Hall Annual Lecture and Receive Award for Pledge to Advance Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Within weeks of entering the Master’s of Social Work program in September 2016, 28 graduate students decided to act to end their profession’s deep involvement in the oppression of indigenous peoples. They drafted a pledge for social workers –  believed to be the first of its kind in Canada – that takes up the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the social work profession.  Four of the students from the class –  Catherine Dwyer, Susan Lee, Elaine Waddington Lamont and Katie McLaurin –   will present this work at the Rheal Brant-Hall Annual Lecture on March 6, 2017. Further, class members will be the first recipients of the Rheal Brant-Hall Award created by the School of Social Work to recognize outstanding contributions to the respectful relations between the profession of social work and indigenous peoples.

Developed as part of a course assignment, the students introduced the pledge in a workshop on Truth and Reconciliation held in early November and attended by many community agency representatives, students and faculty. Feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive, including from indigenous participants who saw the pledge as an important and much needed step forward. Dr. Patricia McGuire, an indigenous faculty member at the School of Social Work, was at the workshop. “These students are amazing. They are taking up reconciliation from the perspective of settler society. That is what we need now. It makes me feel hopeful”.

One of the students, Catherine Dwyer, expressed appreciation for the opportunity to take the pledge to a wider audience “We had no idea that this work could be important. We see it as a pledge-in-progress, both because there is so much reconciliation work to do and because the pledge may change to accomplish it.” Dr. Susan Braedley, the course instructor, gives full credit to the students. “This is the students’ initiative. They kept it as a surprise, even from me, until they presented it at the workshop!”

In 2016, inspired by the historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s recommendations, some professors at the School of Social Work decided to focus their teaching on the relationship between social work and indigenous peoples. “I am learning more about these issues every day, often from my students” said Braedley.” They are committed to a more just and equitable future and willing to do the hard work to move toward that goal.”

The School of Social Work will present the Annual Rheal Brant-Hall Lecture, March 6, 2017, 5-7 pm. Richcraft Hall Atrium, Carleton University. Entitled Pledging Reconciliation/Transforming Social Work, it will feature Catherine Dwyer, Susan Lee, Elaine Waddington Lamont and Katie McLaurin on behalf of the Foundations MSW class of 2018.

This lecture is offered annually in honour of Rheal Brant-Hall who worked with the School of Social Work’s now defunct Off-Campus Program from 1996 until her premature death in 2000. Rheal was a proud Mohawk woman who retained a strong connection to her home community of Tyendinaga. Rheal was passionately committed to social justice and to making a university education accessible to all aboriginal people. With her passing, the School, the faculty, staff and students lost a valued colleague, advocate, teacher and friend.