Definite Term Lecturer

Kelly Laurila Head Shot


Ph.D., Wilfrid Laurier University - Social Work

M.S.W., Wilfrid Laurier University - Social Work, Indigenous Field of Study

M.Ed., Southwest Texas State University - Education

B.Ed., Brock University - Indigenous Adult Education

B.A., University of Waterloo - Psychology


Contact Information

School of Social Work, Renison University College

240 Westmount Road North, Waterloo, ON Canada N2L 3G4



Kelly Laurila is an Indigenous Sámi and Irish woman with 27 years of lived Anishinaabe knowledges and experiences, songcarrier of an Indigenous women and girls’ drum circle, social worker, academic scholar, and lecturer. She is also an advocate and mover of ideological and social policy change pertaining to Indigenous child welfare and policing practices impacting Indigenous peoples and of reconciliation initiatives.

Kelly defended her dissertation in October 2018 pertaining to the qualities that are needed to sustain an ethical space of engagement in Indigenous/police relations. For the past 10 years, Kelly has been a part-time lecturer in the Social Work and Social Development Studies programs at Renison University College and for the past three years at in the Masters of Social Work program at Wilfrid Laurier University. Kelly brings an Indigenous and Western lens to her teaching pedagogy and particularly uses Indigenous concepts of wholism and interconnectedness to invite analysis, critique and discussion of various concepts and themes in social work such as whiteness ideology that has laid the ground work for past and ongoing patriarchy, heteropatriarchy, colonization, racism, oppression, gender violence, and inequalities at the macro systemic and structural levels in society, as well as the everyday micro levels of individual acts. Kelly has a keen interest in research that contributes to decolonization and justice in relationships between Indigenous and Settler peoples particularly in social work, policing, and the justice system (i.e., prison system).

Courses taught at Renison

IS 110: Reconciliation: Discussions and Implications for Settler Peoples

SOCWK 222R: Community Organizing

SDS 311R: Public Policy and Native Peoples in Canada

SWREN 411R: Integrative Practices: Indigenous Perspectives in Social Work

SWREN 470R: Mental Health and Addiction Issues: Social Work Responses

SDS 450R: Reconciliation: Implications for Settler Peoples

Graduate Courses: 

SWK 602R: Social Work Practice in Health 

SWK605R: Knowledge Mobilization and Evidence-Based Practice

SWK603R: Leadership and Social Work Supervision

Research Interests (keywords)

Colonial/Indigenous relations, critical analysis of reconciliation, Indigenous/police relations, (in)equity and (in)justice.  


Papers in refereed Journals: 

Laurila, K. (2020, pending). The Ethical Space of Engagement Between Indigenous Women and Girls of a Drum Circle and White, Settler Men of a Police Chorus: Implications for Policing Ideology, Policies, and Practices. Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics, 17(4).

Laurila, K. (2018). Reconciliation in social work: Creating ethical space through a relational approach to circle pedagogy. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 40(1):92-110.

Laurila, K. & Willingham, L. (2017). Drum Circles and Community Music: Reconciling the difference. International Journal of Community Music. 10(2):139-156.

Laurila, K. (2016). Reconciliation: All our relations. Consensus. 37(1):1-14.

Laurila, K. (2016). Indigenous knowledge? Listening for the drumbeat and searching for how I know. Qualitative Social Work, 15(5-6):610-618.

Papers in Refereed Conference Proceedings:

Laurila, K. (2017, May 29). Refereed Pedagogy Showcase Presentation. Reconciliation: Creating ethical space through a relational approach to circle pedagogy. Pedagogies of decolonization and reconciliation in post-secondary education. Ryerson University, ON.

Laurila, K.  (2017, May 13).  Refereed Conference Panel Presentation.  Bridging culture through song: An unlikely, yet inevitable relationship.  International Community Music Conference.  Wilfrid Laurier University, ON.

Laurila, K. (2016, May 19). Social Work: Our reflexive epistemological journeys of how we have come to know: So far. Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL.

Laurila, K.  (2015, June 11). Refereed Conference Presentation. Bridging communities through song: An urban reconciliation effort bringing Indigenous and Settler peoples together.  Canadian

Indigenous/Native Studies Association (CINSA):  Survivance & Reconciliation: 7 forward/ 7 back.  Montreal, QC: Concordia University.

Refereed Conference Panel Presentations:

Laurila, K. (2017, April 1). Refereed Conference Panel Presentation. Laying roots through culture: The role of arts and culture in resettlement and communicating the migration experience.  Up/Rooted: Refugees, Resettlement, Community Conference. Wilfrid Laurier University, ON.

Laurila, K. (2016, May 19).  Refereed Conference Panel Presentation.  Social Work:  In search of epistemologies.  Congress of Qualitative Inquiry.  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL.

Authored Chapters in Books:

Laurila, K. (2020, pending). Song as the catalyst that enables envisioning ethical spaces within and between. In L. Willingham (Ed.), Walking the boundaries in community music.

Technical Reports:

Laurila, K. Proposal for White Owl Native Ancestry Association: First Peoples’ Place: Wholistic Child & Family Resource Hub of Waterloo Region. Kitchener, On. 2016, May 12.

Laurila, K. Proposal for an Indigenous Child & Family Resource Centre of Waterloo Region. Region of Waterloo Children’s Services, Waterloo, ON. 2012, February 23.


Laurila, K. (2019, Nov. 26). Critiquing the journey of reconciliation. Well-Being Waterloo Region: First Nations, Inuit and Métis Advisory and Advocacy Circle. Waterloo. ON.

Laurila, K. (2019, Nov. 5). The contradiction, and direction, for Indigenous/police relations. Third Age Learning (TAL) KW. Rim Park, Waterloo, ON.

Laurila, K. & Willingham, L. (2017, Nov. 3). Bridgebuilding with song and ethical space. Interlude 2017: Conference of the Ontario Music Educators’ Ass. Deerhurst Resort: Huntsville, ON.

Laurila, K. (2016, November 9). Healing from the drum: Wholistic experiences of Indigenous drum circle. Music Care Webinar Series Presentation.  Wilfrid Laurier University. Waterloo, ON.

Laurila, K. (2016, October 16). Social Action, Ethical Space and Circle Pedagogy. Integrating Knowledges Summit: Truth and Reconciliation Response Projects. University of Waterloo. Waterloo, ON.

Laurila, K. (2016, October 14). Youth Truth and Reconciliation Workshop. Integrating Knowledges Summit: Truth and Reconciliation Response Projects. University of Waterloo. Waterloo, ON.

Laurila, K. (2016, May 13).  Reconciliation. Presentation at Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board.  Dublin, ON.

Laurila, K. (2016, January 27). Reconciliation: Truth & Reconciliation Education Forum.  Kitchener, ON: The Family Centre.

Laurila, K. (2015, March 30).  Day of Dialogue:  Truth & Reconciliation after TRC. Waterloo, ON:  Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, Wilfrid Laurier University.

Laurila, K. (2010, November). An Indigenous wholistic healing approach to coping with anxiety. Research presentation made at the “Emerging Models of Wholistic Healing Practices” Conference at Wilfrid Laurier University, Kitchener, ON.

Laurila, K. (2011, November; 2010, October).  Cultural competency:  An     Indigenous perspective. Conestoga College, Kitchener, ON.

Laurila, K. (2010, May).  Homelessness, housing and the impact of colonization     on Aboriginal peoples.  Presentation to the Homelessness & Housing Umbrella Group of Waterloo Region, Kitchener, ON.

Laurila, K. (2008, August).  Aboriginal healing and the impact of colonization. Presentation to the United Steel Workers of Canada, Toronto, ON.

Laurila, K. (2008, 2007, 2006, May).  Aboriginal healing.  Presentation to Social Work students at Renison University College, Waterloo, ON.

Laurila, K. (2006-2008). Aboriginal healing.  Presentation to Human Services students at Conestoga College, Kitchener, ON.



Laurila, K. (2018). Reconciliation: Facilitating ethical space between Indigenous women and girls of a drum circle and white, Settler men of a police chorus.

The purpose of this dissertation research project was to seek understanding through an Indigenous research framework of how a singing partnership between Indigenous women and girls of a drum circle and white, Settler men of a police chorus (i.e., representing public relations for Waterloo Regional Police Services) has been sustained within a local context for five years. Knowing the historical and ongoing colonial systemic violence in policing practices with Indigenous peoples in Canada, it seems unlikely that such a partnership would take place. Through engagement, an ethical space was created that enabled dialogue and understanding of one another, and a critical consciousness of the need for ideological systemic change in policing policies and practices. This singing partnership was the bridge that enabled passageway beyond singing to discussions and engagement with the local police chief and police services.

Laurila, K. & Willingham, L. (2017). Drum Circles and Community Music: Reconciling the


This research project was conducted with a local Indigenous women and girls’ drum circle of which Kelly was songcarrier.  Using Indigenous methodology and acknowledgement of the researcher being insider and outsider, stories of the women and girls were gathered as to what the drum circle means to them. The drum circle provided a means to help meet spiritual, emotional/relational, mental (learning) and physical needs. While singing, dancing, and drumming were the invitations to come together, the essence of the drum circle’s existence was that it provided a decolonized space for Indigenous women and girls to find connections to their cultural identities and traditions in an urban setting. Colonization was the catalyst for the drum circle’s existence.

University of Waterloo

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