Modern Disenfranchisement – The Legality of a Registered Social Worker


  • Denica Bleau
  • Melanie Lansall
  • Joban Dhanoa


The legality of who is considered Indigenous has been created for the purpose of employing settler colonialism and eradicating Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples’ identity is held and defined by colonial legislation. Historically, in the North of Turtle Island (Canada), when operating amongst the systems and legislation that have been created by and for the colonizer, such as the Indian Act (1876), Indigenous Peoples are forced to choose between Indigeneity and safety. This paper was formed as a result of the legality which restricts Indigenous, Black and social workers of Colour (IBPOC) from participating in social justice movements, specific to Indigenous rights, human rights, and land rights, due to the fear of losing their social work license / registration in a Northern Turtle Island (Canadian) context. We review the current implications of claiming the label of a Registered Social Worker (RSW), and the use of direct and intentional surveillance of IBPOC and communities through the realm of social work, which inhibits community and relational practice, and exacerbates a colonial agenda of punitive practice. We recommend that the schools of social work review how the legality of registration and licensing is a form of disenfranchisement, when being confronted with choosing Indigeneity or colonized legislation.