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Concurrent session

Justice and Child Welfare


November 20, 2016 at 10:30am - 11:45am


Engineering Teaching & Learning Complex (ETLC), University of Alberta
with Jean LaFrance and Siu Ming Kwok

How are child welfare and the youth criminal justice system affecting youth at risk from diverse backgrounds? And do changes need to be made to ensure youth a positive future in Canada?

Can Indigenous prophecy save us from ourselves?

Many Indigenous prophecies tell the history of the Red and White brothers, sons of the Earth Mother and the Great Spirit who gave them different missions. The Red Brother was to stay at home and keep the land in sacred trust while the White Brother went abroad to record things and make inventions. One day the White Brother was to return and share his inventions in a spirit of respect for the wisdom his Red Brother had gained. His inventions would include cobwebs through which people could speak to each other from house to house across mountains, even with all doors and windows closed; there would be carriages crossing the sky on invisible roads, and eventually a gourd of ashes that when dropped would scorch the earth and even the fishes in the sea. If the White Brother's ego grew so large in making these inventions that he would not listen to the wisdom of the Red Brother, this world would come to an end in the Great purification of nature. Only a few would survive to bring forth the next world in which there would again be abundance and harmony.

Jean Lafrance will present highlights from his recent book: Red Brother, White Brother: a time for At-one-ment. Based upon extensive research with Indigenous individuals, families and communities, it reflects their collected wisdom and the critical importance of paying attention to what they say about the child welfare services that affect their lives so dramatically.

Dr. Jean Lafrance received a master’s degree in social work from Carleton University and a PhD from the University of Southern California. He is currently an associate orofessor with the University of Calgary. Lafrance’s last experience with government as Alberta’s provincial Children’s Advocate led him into a keen interest in translating the perspectives of children and their families in forums that can serve to inform program and policy development in human services delivery. LaFrance is especially interested in change processes that can assist Aboriginal people to develop children’s services programs that are more congruent with their aspirations and worldviews. 

Bifurcation of youth justice policy in Canada: implications for youth from racialized groups

The enactment of the Canada's current youth justice legislation, the 2003 Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), was to accommodate competing public discourses in relation to how to handle youth offending. A dominant theme that exemplifies the YCJA is the conceptual bifurcation of young offenders into serious and minor young offenders. Longer custodial sentencing is applied to serious offenders and lenient measures are used for minor offenders. The conceptual bifurcation of penal policy under YCJA is a mixed model incorporating the features and conflicting assumptions from other youth justice models. The inherent tensions of the YCJA might be a challenge for the administration and future policy direction of youth justice in Canada. This presentation is aimed at understanding competing public discourses in shaping the YCJA, its implications for youth from racialized group, especially on Chinese youth in conflict with the law, and what would be the promising practices for these populations.

Siu Ming Kwok is a professor in the University of Calgary's faculty of social work. Siu Ming has extensive research experience in the areas of social justice among youth and youth in conflict with the law in Canada. His broader research interests include child welfare, social work education, social policy, municipal governments and social welfare, program evaluation, and non-profit sector administration. He has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, master’s degree in social work from University of British Columbia, master’s degree in public administration from University of Western Ontario, and doctoral degree in philosophy (social work) from the University of Calgary.