The Expert Witness as cultural oppressor

This blog is a guest blog by Peter W Choate, PhD (Associate Professor, Social Work, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada – pchoate@mtroyal.ca)

Peter’s work involves sustained critical discussions of the roles of parental capacity assessments and expert witnesses in the machinations that result in the disproportionate representation of Indigenous Canadian children in the Canadian child welfare system. Here, he discusses the powerful role of the ‘expert witness’ in court proceedings.

 

Today I made an appearance downtown

I am an expert witness because I say I am

And I said, ‘Gentleman..and I use the word loosely…

I will testify for you

I’m a gun for hire, I’m a saint, I’m a liar

Because there are no facts, there is no truth

Just a data to be manipulated

I can get any result you like

What’s it worth to ya?

The Garden of Allah Lyrics – Don Henly. Glenn Frey, Eagles

These words from the America band, The Eagles, is a stark reminder of the power of expert witnesses in courts. In the realm of child protection, mental health experts perform a variety of assessments that influence decisions about the future of children. This work can be in the area of addictions, mental health, domestic violence often wrapped up in the Parenting Capacity Assessment (PCA). A wander through the decisions and research literature in many Euro-centric countries shows that the PCA is a frequently used tool to guide courts in determining the best interests of the child (Choate, 2009).

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The Family Group Conference: Culturally adaptable solution, or neocolonial imposition?

This guest blog post by Paora Moyle, a doctoral candidate at Massey University, introduces the background to her recent research into claims made about the Family Group Conference (FGC). Lauded by academics across the world as a culturally responsive solution to the needs of indigenous peoples, Paora’s research calls into questions the myths about FGCs in Aotearoa New Zealand and abroad.

Continue reading The Family Group Conference: Culturally adaptable solution, or neocolonial imposition?