How to Assess and Mitigate Risk from a Mi'kmaq Perspective




MacEachern, Mary

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Within the journey of self-determination, Indigenous Peoples are creating various systems that reflect their ways of knowing and being. Mi’kmaq Family & Children Services is such an agency, however, it is mandated to use provincial legislation, guidelines and policies that are deeply rooted in western ways of knowing. This thesis explores how to assess and mitigate risk from a Mi’kmaq perspective. Mi’kmaq social workers, who have experience assessing risk and developing plans to mitigate it, were interviewed regarding their perspectives on what needs to be considered when creating a model of assessment for Mi’kmaq families. Storytelling methodology was used for interviewees to share broadly what they felt as necessary aspects to incorporate into the assessment and mitigation processes. As the researcher I analyzed the interviews for themes and ideologies that would be necessary to consider when assessing risk and creating tools that assist with this process. Four open ended questions were provided to interviewees as a guideline for this exploration. They are: What do you believe the concerns, challenges and/or strengths of the current risk assessment model are when you are assessing the risk of Mi’kmaq children and youth? From your knowledge of Mi’kmaq ways of knowing and being what do you think a Mi’kmaq risk assessment would/could/should look like? Is risk assessment the right term for this work, or are there other words that best describe the work that we do from your knowledge of Mi’kmaq ways of knowing and being? What are the opportunities a Mi’kmaq risk assessment could offer Mi’kmaq communities? Due to Covid 19 restrictions the interviews had to occur by phone. They averaged one hour in duration. Interviewees agreed to be recorded, and following the interviews I transcribed the interviews. The transcription was given to each participant to review, edit and revise. The transcription was then formatted into a narrative format and each participant was given a name from the Seven Directions, with a pronoun being used to maintain anonymity. This narrative was given to each interviewee to review, edit and revise.
 The research found the following themes: ongoing cultural competence training is needed; the effects of residential school and other assimilation/oppressive tactics, not only affected Mi’kmaq lives in the past but continues to affect them currently; due to this, trauma informed and strength based practice, that is collaborative, is essential. Interviewees stressed the importance of using tools, such as risk assessments, that are more reflective of, and uphold a collaborative process, which holds up Indigenous epistemology, ontology, and axiology. This includes practices such as, the Medicine Wheel, Seven Sacred Teachings, reciprocity, reflection, circular thinking, use of Medicines and various Spiritual practices.



Indigenous, Indigenous child welfare, Indigenous child welfare legislation, Indigenous overrepresentation, Mi'kmaq, perspective, child welfare, child welfare reform, trauma, residential school, 60s scoop, western, worldview, values and beliefs, risk assessment, assessment, mitigate