The Munk School Student Events: LGBTQ+ Activism & Indigenous Child Welfare


The Munk School of Public Policy is fortunate to be home to multiple student-led groups who pursue important work and invite interesting guests throughout the year. This episode is about two of those events.

We will first be hearing from Professor Bob Rae who, alongside Professor Verne Ross, was invited in November 2019 by the newly-founded Indigenous Affairs Student Initiative to speak about Indigenous child welfare policy in Ontario.

Most Indigenous communities, even where they have some control over the child welfare system on reserve, or even in cities, are really just enforcing the law; the Ontario law or the provincial law across the country.  That’s the first problem. You’re really just administering somebody else’s rules — Bob Rae

Indigenous children make up just over 4% of the provinces population aged 15 or less, but represent over 30% of those in the province’s foster care system. Furthermore, The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the Federal Government has underfunded on-reserve services for Indigenous children.  

One of the things we definitely know as a result of the Blackstock case is that the per-capita funding for child welfare is much higher in non-Indigenous communities than it is in Indigenous communities. So that’s a real problem because that means that the basis for funding has been discriminatory — Bob Rae

I think the Indigenous youth movement is one of the hopeful signs. It’s the sign that people are fighting back and looking at saying well, what can we do to improve the conditions? How do we improve the conditions? How do we make a difference? How do we get the investments that we need to deal with the inequality? — Bob Rae

We will then be hearing from Reverend Cheri DiNovo and Dr. Nick J. Mulé, who were invited by Spectrum a few days earlier to speak about the past and future of LGBTQ2s legislation and activism in Ontario. Recent legislation in Ontario has seen the Progressive Conservative government rollback the province’s sex-ed curriculum, thus omitting references to sexual orientation, gender identity and same-sex relationships. Furthermore, a motion passed by delegates at the Progressive Conservative convention explicitly called for all references to transgender people to be removed from the province’s curriculum.

Whenever these things to do happen, it’s not only the education leading up to it, it’s the education that comes afterwards as well. I think the really positive thing about having these rights come into place is it opens up the dialogue, it opens up discussion, it forces people to look at things from a different angle they wouldn’t have previously. Getting it to transfer substantially on the ground with the regard to the reality of people’s lives is very much a different story — Nick Mulé

We have to keep talking. We have to keep educating. And that means educating people who walk into our classrooms with absolutely diametrical ideas. We have to educate the electorate who don’t want to elect us. We have to educate policymakers who don’t want to make policy around us, and once policy is made, don’t want to enforce it, and don’t want to implement it — Cheri Dinovo

Bob Rae was elected eleven times to the House of Commons and the Ontario legislature between 1978 and 2013. He was Ontario’s 21st Premier from 1990 to 1995 and Interim Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada from 2011 to 2013. He is a senior partner at OKT Law and teaches at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, focusing primarily on First Nations, Aboriginal and governance issues. He has written 5 books and is a companion of the Order of Canada.

Cheri  DiNovo is a Minister of the United Church. She served as MPP for Parkdale High-Park for 11 years. She has passed more private member bills than anyone else in Ontario’s history and has more pro-LGBTQ bills than anyone else in Canadian history. She performed the first legal same-sex marriage in Canada, passed Toby’s Act, an amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Code to include gender identity and gender expression, and Bill 77, banning conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth in Ontario.

Nick Mulé is a professor at the School of Social Work at York University. He is the founder of Queer Ontario, was a founding member of Amnesty International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Action Circle, a founding board member for the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition and has been appointed co-chairperson of the Ontario LGBT Research & Policy Think Tank by Rainbow Health Ontario.

Alex Gold-Apel, Host & Producer
Amanda Lane, Technical Producer
Dimitri Treheles, Technical Producer & Executive Producer
Nuri Kim, Executive Producer

Music Credits:
Electric Pow Wow Drum by A Tribe Called Red
Closer by Tegan and Sara

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