Behind the Front Lines: Realities of Racism and Discrimination for IBPOC Social Workers


  • Denica Dione Bleau
  • Joban Dhanoa


With the growing initiative to integrate social justice practices into social work praxis, frontline workers need a concrete understanding of what achieving advocacy looks like, particularly in the context of trauma-informed practice. Advocating as a social worker with an intersectional and forced marginalized identity causes further strife between social workers and the societal structures that they operate within, often oppressing Indigenous, Black and other people of colours’ (IBPOC) knowledge systems that challenge colonial and mainstream ideologies. There is a continued recognition amongst the social work profession that there is a lack of knowledge regarding historical and contemporary policies and their current implications, when working with IBPOC, and a lack of support for those who seek to decolonize the social work profession.  In this paper, we write from the perspective of a light-skinned, nêhiyaw/métis person and a South Asian settler, working as frontline social workers, to explore the ways in which advocacy work is a key part of a trauma-informed approach.  

Author Biographies

Denica Dione Bleau


Joban Dhanoa



Ava Duvernay & Jason Moran. (2016). 13TH . [Documentary]. USA: Kandoo Films.

BC College of Social Workers. (2020, November). Final Report: BC College of Social Workers 2020 Strategic Planning 2021 - 2023 Strategic Priorities (Rep.). Retrieved

Bennett, B., Zubrzycki, J., & Bacon, V. (2011). What Do We Know? The Experiences of Social Workers Working Alongside Aboriginal People. Australian Social Work, 64(1), 20-37. doi:10.1080/0312407x.2010.511677

Borg, D., Brownless, K., Delaney, R. (1993). Postmodern Social Work Practice with Aboriginal People. Northern Social Work Practice. Northern and Regional Studies 4, 116-135. Retrieved from:

Brant, C. C. (1990). Native Ethics and Rules of Behaviour. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 35(6), 534-539. doi:10.1177/070674379003500612

Brownlie, R. (2003). A fatherly eye: Indian agents, government power, and Aboriginal resistance in Ontario, 1918-1939. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press.

Bruyere, G. (1999). The decolonization wheel: An Aboriginal perspective on social work practice with Aboriginal peoples. In R. Delaney, K. Brownlee, & M Sellick (Eds.), Social work with rural and northern communities. Thunder Bay, ON: Lakehead University, Centre for Northern Studies.

Burstow, B. (2003). Toward a radical understanding of trauma and trauma work. Violence Against Women, 9(11), 1293– 1317.

Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) (2005). Code of Ethics. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW). Retrieved from:

CASW. (2020, June 8). CASW Statement of Mourning, Solidarity and Call to Action. Retrieved from

Coulthard, G. S., & Alfred, G. R. (2014). Red skin, white masks: Rejecting the colonial politics of recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Crampton, A. (2015). Decolonizing Social Work “Best Practices” through a Philosophy of Impermanence. Journal of Indigenous Social Development, 4(1), 1-11. Retrieved from

Duthie, D. (2019). Embedding Indigenous knowledges and cultural safety in social work curricula. Australian Social Work, 72:1, 113-116, DOI: 10.1080/0312407X.2018.1534978

Fortier, C., & Wong, E. H. (2018). The settler colonialism of social work and the social work of settler colonialism. Settler Colonial Studies, 9(4), 437-456. doi:10.1080/2201473x.2018.1519962

Hart, M. A. (2005). Seeking mino-pimatisiwin: An aboriginal approach to helping. Halifax: Fernwood Publ.

Hart, M., Sinclair, R., & Bruyere, G. (2010). Wícihitowin: Aboriginal social work in Canada. Vancouver, B.C.: Langara College.

Jacobs, M. C. (2012). Assimilation through incarceration: The geographic imposition of Canadian law over Indigenous people (Doctoral dissertation, Queen’s University). Retrieved from

Johnson, H. (2020). Peace and good order: The case for Indigenous justice in Canada. Toronto: CNIB.

Kreitzer, L. (2006). “Social Work Values and Ethics of Universality.” Currents: New Scholarship in the Human Services 5,1. Retrieved from:

Linklater, R. (2016). Decolonizing Trauma Work: Indigenous Stories and Strategies. Langara College.

Minister of Justice. (Last amended: August 15, 2019). Indian Act. (R.S.C., 1985, c. 1-5). Place of publication: Department. Retrieved from:

O’Neill, E. (2004). Holding Flames: Women Illuminating Knowledge of s/Self-Transformation. Learning Toward an Ecological Consciousness: Selected Transformative Practices, 183-199. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-73178-7_12

Randall, M., & Haskell, L. (2013). Trauma-informed approaches to law: Why restorative justice must understand trauma and psychological coping. Dalhousie Law Journal, 36(2), 501-533. Retrieved from:

Sandoval, C. D., Lagunas, R. M., Montelongo, L. T., & Díaz, M. J. (2016). Ancestral Knowledge Systems: A conceptual framework for decolonizing research in social science. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 12(1), 18-31. doi:10.20507/alternative.2016.12.1.2

Sangster, J. (1999). Criminalizing the Colonized: Ontario Native Women Confront the Criminal Justice System, 1920-60. Canadian Historical Review, 80(1), 32-60. doi:10.3138/chr.80.1.32

Sinclair, R. (2004). Aboriginal Social Work in Canada: Decolonizing Pedagogy for the Seventh Generation. First Peoples Family and Child Review, 11: 49-61. Retrieved from:

Stanfield, J. H. (2016). Historical Foundations of Black Reflective Sociology. Walnut Creek: Taylor and Francis.

Stevenson, B. (2015). Just mercy: A story of justice and redemption. New York: Spiegel & Grau.

Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2014). Unbecoming Claims. Qualitative Inquiry, 20(6), 811-818. doi:10.1177/1077800414530265

Turpel Lafond -, M.E. (2020). In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care (pp. 1-227, Rep.). BC. Retrieved from

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Truth and reconciliation commission of Canada: Calls to action. Retrieved from:

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (2008). United Nations. Retrieved from:

Valandra & Hokšíla. (2020). Colorizing Restorative Justice: Voicing Our Realities. Living Justice Press.

van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Viking.

Wilson, S. (2008). Research is ceremony: Indigenous research methods. Black Point, N.S.: Fernwood Pub.

Wolfe, P. (2006). Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native. Journal of Genocide Research, 8:4, 387-409, DOI: 10.1080/14623520601056240






First Nations & Indigenous Voices