Haisla woman trailblazes in social work

Dr. Jacquie Green is the University of Victoria’s first aboriginal director of social work.

She may be working in B.C.’s capital but Dr. Jacquie Green (or, Kundoqk) keeps her Haisla roots close to her heart.

Green is a distinguished member of the province’s social worker circles, in July taking the role as the University of Victoria’s first aboriginal director of social work. It’s also the first aboriginal director of social work in any mainstream Canadian university.

She began her new position in July, not too long after she successfully defended her dissertation in her home community of Kitamaat Village. (Sentinel, April 17, 2013)

She said that being in the position she’s in it does make a difference for First Nations.

“It makes a difference in the sense that they see our own people reflected in a leadership position, and for probably the last half of the century, in terms of social work and child welfare, this has always been problematic for our people. Our people are over-represented in the state, almost 50 per cent of our children are in foster care,” she said, noting that in places further north than Kitimat there might be 70 per cent of children in the care of the state.

She’s been with the school for 13 years and said she’s developed, with colleagues, an indigenous social work program.

“What we bring in to the school is a different lens for students to understand the history of indigenous people, to understand how colonial forces such as the residential schools, the child welfare system, the Indian Act, have all affected families across the nation so a lot of non-indigenous societies know that history,” she said.

A lot of racism can come from not understanding that history, she said. She points to old assumptions that First Nations people are lazy or alcoholics.

“I say to them, imagine if your entire being has been forcefully removed from you, you’re not allowed to leave the reserve, you’re not allowed to speak your language, you’re not allowed to be connected to your brothers and sisters,” she said.

When all that is stripped from someone, anyway, “the only thing left to do is what a lot of people do when they reach bottom.”

But to address these problems, Green takes a collaborative approach with the whole faculty to make plans.

Green is also a project manager for Indigenous Child Well Being Research Network, which works with agencies to provide child well being training throughout the province.

She believes focusing more on the family will provide better outcomes.

“I think that the practice needs to change, it needs to be more preventative, it needs to provide support to families so their kids don’t get taken away,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t get why that’s the answer because it costs more for the government.”