Alberta pledges $8 million for mental health support to residential school survivors, families – Calgary Herald

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The provincial government is committing nearly $8 million to help residential school survivors and their families access mental-health supports in Indigenous communities across Alberta.

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Nearly $2.9 million of the funds will go toward Indigenous-led mental-health programming that communities can apply for before Dec. 30; in total, $50,000 is accessible to each First Nation, Métis and Inuit community throughout the province as part of the one-time Residential School Mental Health Support Program grant.

An additional $4.9 million over the next two years will go toward the Alberta Health Services Indigenous Wellness Core, which provides culturally appropriate and accessible health-care services for Indigenous people across Alberta.

“This funding will provide supports that are led by Indigenous people,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday. “They will be implementing the mental-health supports that work best for the survivors, for the families of the survivors and for their loved ones, as they cope with the ongoing trauma resulting from residential schools.”

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Shandro said he is “deeply sorry” for what Indigenous families went through as a result of the residential school system and that this grant is one more step toward reconciliation.

“I cannot fathom that loss, I cannot make it up to you. The residential school system is a stain on our honour and we cannot wash it away. What we can do is show that we can do better, we can join with you in an honourable partnership.”

The grant will give Indigenous communities the opportunity to access individual and family counselling or help to facilitate traditional healing practices such as talking circles.

Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson said understanding how deep the trauma of the residential school system goes is key to appropriately offering supports.

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“Suicide is five to six times higher for our Indigenous youth than non-Indigenous youth. This is happening in our province today. I fear what’s going to happen tomorrow and the next day, as more and more children are found and the intergenerational trauma continues to come to the surface,” he said.

Chief Douglas Beaverbones of the O’Chiese First Nation said that while the funding will not heal the wounds of the past, it may help combat the ongoing intergenerational trauma the system created.

“We all come from trauma from the past, and our parents went through the system and we picked it up as we got older. Our parents didn’t know how to deal with trauma back then, they faced lot of abuse and then it got passed down to us,” he said.

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“It’s not going to heal the wounds that we faced back then and what we face today . . . But I am glad that we got the funding to continue with the process we’re facing and to continue just to move forward.”

Regional Chief Marlene Poitras of the Assembly of First Nations Alberta Association thanked the children whose bodies have been discovered in unmarked graves at former residential school sites across the country for being the “catalyst for our healing.”

She added that accessibility for the funding is going to be key to the success of the grant.

“We have to ensure that the funds that are for the people, that it’s easily accessible. Please don’t let them go through all this red tape to access funding for their healing,” she said. “It’s really, really, really needed right now, we have so many survivors that are in trauma right now. A lot of them don’t know what to do, they don’t know how to deal with it, so this will really help them move in that direction to their own healing.”

ocondon@postmedia.com

Twitter: @oliviacondon

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