Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work

Program Name/Specialization

Aboriginal Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. Gus Hill

Advisor Role

Associate Dean, Associate Professor, Aboriginal Field of Study

Second Advisor

Dr. Timothy Leduc

Advisor Role

Assistant Professor, Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

Third Advisor

Dr. Kriistina Montero

Advisor Role

Associate Vice-President: Teaching and Learning


The social work profession has played, and continues to play, an integral role in the development and implementation of discriminatory and harmful practices against Indigenous individuals, families, and communities across Canada (Blackstock, 2011). The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) 94 Calls to Action provide a comprehensive list of recommendations of which the primary focuses on child welfare. This Call to Action centres on ensuring that social workers are, “properly educated and trained about the history and impacts of residential schools” (TRC, 2015). This responsibility falls to Faculties and Schools of Social Work Social work to ensure social work students are acquiring adequate knowledge to work with Indigenous individuals, families, and communities. This mixed method study is situated within an Indigenous research methodology. The goal of this research was to develop an in-depth understanding of student experiences and learning needs surrounding the implementation of the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action. It was important to explore student experiences and learning needs as they primary stakeholders in social work education and will be working with Indigenous people upon entry into the social service field.

This study was conducted with Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Social Work, and Master of Social Work – Indigenous Field of Study students from Wilfrid Laurier University, Renison University College at the University of Waterloo, and McMaster University. The study included 14 social work students distributed across five qualitative sharing circles and a quantitative survey that was completed by 142 social work students. The research questions explored the depth and breadth of student understanding of Indigenous peoples, knowledges, worldviews as well as their experience and learning needs surrounding the implementation of the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action.

The themes that emerged from the research articulate a preliminary understanding of gaps in social work student learning needs in identifying and implementing the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action in education and practice. The themes are grouped under six categories: structures, education, emotions, indigeneity, self and identity, and tangible recommendations. The themes are discussed subsequent to a literature review on the colonial history of social work, reconciliation in the Canadian context, and the decolonization of social work education.

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