About the Giiwedin Anang Council
The Giiwedin Anang Council is an Indigenous Family Dispute Resolution (IFRD) program. The Council is made up of staff from Aboriginal Legal Services and volunteers from the Indigenous community in the Greater Toronto Area. Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Aunties, Uncles, and community members gather in a Talking Circle to guide families through their difficult situations. This is more of an approach than a process. We support families at all levels of conflict, from access and custody disputes to apprehensions and placement by child welfare agencies.
The Council’s approach is to remain neutral and compassionate while guiding the families towards the best possible outcome for the children. Our philosophy is that the Indigenous Community knows best how to help a community member(s) in crisis. Our volunteers bring with them the best of their lived experience, a mix of personal resilience and professional success. Creating a safe space for families to open up about their lives is a skill, one all Council volunteers and staff have been trained to create. With their collective knowledge, connected hearts & minds, and through their spirit, they shine together to be a guiding light through dark times.
The purpose of the Giiwedin Anang Council is to allow parents, children, extended family, child welfare authorities, and others with concerns for a child’s future, to get together and develop a plan that will meet the needs of the child.
The Council is a circle which allows all parties to have a voice in a culturally relevant and integral way.
Our Name: Giiwedin Anang
In the winter of 2009-2010, community members and staff invited Traditional Healer Jake Ago Neh, to Aboriginal Legal Services for a naming ceremony. Jake was offered Tobacco and offerings for the naming ceremony. After the ceremony, Jake shared that Giiwedin Anang is Anishinaabemowin for North Star.
Jake explained that long ago if a person was lost at night in the dark, all the person had to do was look up into the night sky and look for the Big Dipper and from there the North Star. After finding the North Star, the person is no longer lost.
Our Council is the North Start for families involved with the child welfare systems and family court. We help provide a sense of direction that can be used as a guiding light through conflict towards resolution.
Child Welfare Referrals
Families with Indigenous Children / Youth who are involved in the child welfare system can self-refer to the Council. Children’s Aid Societies, Children’s Lawyers working with Indigenous Children and Parents Counsel can also refer to Giiwedin Anang Council at ANY point in the court process where an indigenous child/ youth is involved. We also take referrals directly from court.
All stages of child welfare involvement have and can be brought to the Giiwedin Anang Council:
- Pre-Apprehension - including negotiating the terms of a Voluntary Services Agreement (VSA) and or a Temporary Care Agreement (TCA)
- Supervision Orders
- Access disputes
- Poor communication between parents and workers
- Extended Society Care Orders and Reviews
- Customary Care Agreements (CCA)
- Long Term Care Issues
- Openness Issues
- Placement Issues
- Foster Parent Issues
- Reunification plans.
- Matters before Child Welfare Review Board
Pre-Apprehension Legal Aid Certificates can be directly filled out with the Giiwedin Anang staff for Indigenous parents in the GTA. The certificates allow parents to receive Legal Advice before signing a VSA or TCA. Turnaround for certificates from Legal Aid Ontario is very fast. It is always best practise to have Legal Advice before signing a Temporary Care Agreement.
Families involved in both the Criminal Court and Child Welfare Courts can and have been referred to the Council to work out parenting plans and arrangements. The Council has and can act as a neutral third party between parents for the purpose of parenting plans.
Parents who are victims of domestic violence can self-refer
Parents who have been charged with domestic violence can also self-refer
Indigenous Youth who have disputes with their child welfare workers, placement arrangements, access to siblings and relatives can always self-refer. Voluntary Youth Service Agreements (VYSA) can also be negotiated for Youth who may be in need of protection.
Families with Indigenous Children who would like to participate in the Giiwedin Anang Council program for the purpose of creating a Parenting Plan can self-refer. A Parenting Plan is a document that contains the elements relating to parenting time, decision-making responsibilities, and or contact to which the parties agree.
Most families attend around four talking circles before reaching some resolution to their conflict. Some situations require more and others less. Often one on one counselling is provided for families between circles, with the Elders, Aunties, and Uncles. Meeting regularly with the Circle facilitator can be beneficial in developing skills to reduce conflict.
We are completely confidential, and everything shared in our Circles must stay inside the Circles, Circles are ceremony and are Sacred.
If you and your family are involved with a Child Welfare Agency in Toronto or Peel region or have a custody or access issue and would like to know more about how the Giiwedin Anang Council can assist you, please contact Robert Neapetung, Giiwedin Anang Assistant at 416 408 3967 x 222 or through email at Giiwedinassistant@aboriginallegal.ca
For more Information about Giiwedin Anang please contact:
Giiwedin Anang Council Supervisor (Toronto) – Epiphany Hunt
Giiwedin Anang Council Caseworker (Peel) – Isabelle Brown
Giiwedin Anang Council Program Manager – Ryan Walsh