OASW Mourns Children Lost to Residential Schools, Honours Survivors, and Commits to Addressing the Ongoing Impacts of Colonization on Indigenous Peoples


We are incredibly saddened to learn of the 215 children whose remains were found on the grounds of the former residential school in Kamloops. Our hearts are with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, and with all Indigenous communities grieving this tragedy. 

We mourn the loss of children and generations affected by Canada’s history of policies and systems including the state-funded residential schools system that amount to cultural genocide of the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. Such a discovery has struck a sickening grief felt across the nation.

We recognize that this horrendous act is not an isolated incident in the long-standing shameful colonial relationship that the Government of Canada and settler populations have had with Canada’s First Peoples. It is estimated that over 150,000 children were removed from their families and placed in residential schools. Through the bravery of those people who survived we have learned of the abuse and neglect they were subjected to and the traumatic impacts that continue to this day. This history and ongoing injustice will continue to haunt us until we are open to hear the truth from those who are with us today and the voices of those forgotten, lost, and disbelieved. Without this there will be no reconciliation.  

OASW recognizes and honours our Indigenous members, our partners, and communities. As allies, it is our responsibility to not only remember our past but work towards truth and reconciliation. In particular, OASW understands that any meaningful progress must acknowledge and account for the social work profession’s ongoing and historical contributions to colonization and anti-Indigenous racism. As social workers, we must work to dismantle these practices by committing to reconciliation and engagement from a position of supporting the self-determination of Indigenous people and advancing the need for ongoing member engagement and learning in cultural inclusivity and humility.

OASW notes it is our collective duty to remember and seek justice for the victims of the residential school system. As leaders, we appeal to all levels of government to mobilize concrete changes to address the legacy of residential schools and the advancement of reconciliation and safety for Indigenous Peoples. 

If you are in need of support, you can contact the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line 24-hours a day at 1-866-925-4419. The Hope for Wellness Help Line is also available 24-hours/day and offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada by calling 1-855-242-3310.

OASW Seminar Series Focused on Diversity, Equity and Human Rights

A fundamental piece of addressing Canada’s colonial history is continued education and awareness. We encourage you to take part in OASW’s Summer Seminar Series, starting June 7, which has a distinct focus on disrupting and dismantling racism across systems and deconstructing dominance in social work practice. In particular, the three seminars listed below focus specifically on advancing anti-colonial social work practice: 

Tuesday, June 8 | 12 to 1 p.m. EST
Taking Stock of Social Work's Colonial Past and Present: Strategies for Shifting Power and Eurocentric Perspectives in Social Work
Anita Vaillancourt BSW/H, MSW, PhD

Tuesday, June 15 | 12 to 1 p.m. EST
Advancing A Spiritual Social Work Praxis Through Anti-Colonial and Anti-Racist Narrative Practice
Siham Elkassem, RSW, MSW, PhD Candidate & Dr. Sobia Shaikh

Tuesday, June 22 | 12 to 1 p.m. EST
European/Settler-Descendant Social Workers Working with Indigenous Clients Within a Mainstream Social Work Practice
Mack Treanor Greer-Delarosbel, HNBSW, MSW, RSW

*A translated version of this statement will be available shortly for our French-speaking members and partners. 

About OASW
OASW is the voice of social work in Ontario. It is a voluntary, bilingual, non-profit association representing approximately 7000+ social workers. All members have a university degree in social work at the bachelor, master or doctoral level. OASW works to actively speak on behalf of social workers on issues of interest to the profession and advocates for the improvement of social policies and programs directly affecting social work practice and client groups served.