Lexine McAulay

Lexine McAulay

On the 15th of April, I travelled to Calgary with a group of fellow social work students from the University of Stirling, on a two-week study tour.  This was my first time visiting Canada and I was thrilled to have been chosen to take part in this exciting and unique learning opportunity, to see social work in action in Canada and learn about the indigenous peoples. 

We spent a busy and enlightening day at the University of Calgary.  In the morning we met Les Jerome, who gave us an introduction class to social work with indigenous peoples.  He talked about the colonial history and today’s problems, some of the differences between western and indigenous culture, the intensity and power of the historic racism alive in Canada today, some of the damage it has done through Canada’s history and the lasting effects of that damage presenting in social work today.  Throughout the class Les emphasized the importance of critical thinking with this subject area and gave examples of how you could be misled as a learner if you did not apply it diligently.  I thought this was a valuable lesson to apply to all areas of study.  While discussing the harrowing history of Canada’s inequality it was hard not to draw parallels with Scotland’s and look at our role as social workers in Scotland in a new light.  

In the afternoon, the female members of the took part in a traditional Grandmothers Tea Ceremony with Kerrie Moore.  The ceremony involved sharing tea and thoughts while involving our ancestors.  This experience challenged us to consider the impact of western feminism on our feelings about the tea ceremony and upcoming sweat lodge.  I was confronted with a different social structure in a way that pushed me out of my comfort zone. This led to a discussion on the impact of colonialization on the social structures of indigenous communities across the world and the role of men and women within them. Kerrie then told the whole group about indigenous knowledge and trauma informed practice. She spoke about healing while involving heritage through a spirit centered therapy rather than person centered therapy and put a lot of emphasis on the importance of treating the family as a whole.  In the UK cost can often take precedence over the needs of the individual.  It made me reflect on individual cases I have been involved in that could have benefited from Kerrie’s approach.  We also talked about the wide reach of social work in Canada and its role in private practice, therapy and other industries.  The entire experience was immensely valuable.