David Gleave

David Gleave

Prior to this visit I knew very little about first nations people and the history of Canada. We were captivated by the personal stories Les from the University of Calgary shared with us around his own experiences and the impact of residential schools on people he knows including consequences such as addiction, physical and mental illness, shortened life spans, stigma and discrimination.
We also visited the aboriginal learning centre which is a modern facility aiming to educate indigenous children with due respect afforded to their culture and traditions. The way indigenous people do things is all purposeful so ‘nothing is by accident’, this was illustrated when we came to the middle of the aboriginal learning centre and saw that the windows were aligned in such a way so that the sun can be seen rising and setting every day.
Our two visits to Mount Royal University were excellent, we were kindly hosted by the Iniskim centre. A documentary, (Dis)placed about the way indigenous children are treated by the child welfare system in Canada and the parallels with the residential school system was interesting. There was also a valuable panel discussion with past and current indigenous social work students. We were also told the story the First Nation, Metis and Inuit peoples, how land is taken and they were displaced, which was represented by the blankets being folded and moved. It was a wonderful way of illustrating 500 years of indigenous history in a relatively short space of time, physically showing how the newcomers were welcomed to Canada and then gradually as they became more powerful started to see indigenous people as a ‘problem’ to be ‘fixed’.
We all took a lot of learning away from this trip and hopefully shared some knowledge too, our hosts were always happy to answer our questions and were curious to ask us about social work training in Scotland. Social work values such as anti-discrimination and non-judgement are fairly universal but one of the differences in training was highlighted the week after returning from Calgary. A group of Canadian students visited Stirling and were fascinated by the requirement for service user involvement in social work education in Scotland, they told me they really enjoyed meeting the unity service user group and seemed enthusiastic to implement this in their programme in Canada.