Ontario and Canada Supporting Mental Health Initiatives in Anishinaabe of Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation
KENORA — Ontario and Canada are providing funding to support the Anishinaabe of Wauzhushk Onigum Nation with a range of mental health and trauma supports as the community continues burial investigations at the former St. Mary’s Indian Residential School (IRS).
To help support the community’s healing needs, the government of Ontario is providing the Anishinaabe of Wauzhushk Onigum Nation with $515,079 in funding for the 2021-2022 fiscal year as part of the province’s $4 million investment in IRS-specific mental health and addictions funding. Indigenous Services Canada is also providing $70,000 to enhance community-based mental wellness programs and the delivery of cultural and emotional supports as part of this initiative. This funding is separate from the operational funding being provided to Wauzhushk Onigum Nation and other communities leading burial investigations across the province.
“Supporting the mental health and well-being of Indigenous peoples and communities, including Indian Residential School Survivors, remains a top priority for our government,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs. “We continue to seek direction from Indigenous partners to ensure culturally appropriate, trauma-informed mental health and wellness supports meet the needs of Indigenous communities.”
Funding will be used to conduct a healing needs assessment that will support the community as it continues its healing journey related to the deep and ongoing harms caused by the Indian Residential School system. This will include developing community-wide and individual healing plans, as well as mental health supports for children and youth. This initiative will also help fill additional staffing positions to address challenges including improving access to culturally responsive counselling and social service navigation for Survivors, families and community members.
Ontario recognizes that Indigenous people have faced barriers to accessing effective and safe mental health and trauma-focused care and is committed to providing Indian Residential School Survivors, Indigenous Elders, leaders and communities with the support they need.
- On August 12, 2021, the Government of Canada announced it was committing up to $2,498,430 over three years (2021 to 2024) to the Anishinaabe of Wauzhushk Onigum Nation to carry out work to identify burials related to St. Mary’s Indian Residential School. Ontario also announced it was committing up to $400,000 over two years for 2022-2023 and 2023-2024.
- Ontario is committed to an Indigenous-led process and is ready to move at the appropriate pace as determined by Indigenous partners. All phases of this heartbreaking work must be Indigenous-led, community supported and undertaken with respect for the pace, timelines, and objectives of Indigenous partners.
- On October 29, 2021, Ontario announced more than $36 million in community-led mental health and addictions supports in Indigenous communities across the province including $4 million from the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs to provide critical mental health and addictions (MHA) and trauma supports for Indigenous communities participating in the IRS research and investigations , and funding to urban Indigenous organization for IRS-related MHA and trauma programming for Indigenous people living off-reserve.
- On November 4, 2021, the Ontario government announced it was committing an additional $10 million in funding, beyond the original $10 million announcement in June 2021, to support the identification, investigation, protection and commemoration of Indian Residential School (IRS) burials across the province.
- Roughly 8,000 of Canada’s estimated 80,000 Indian Residential School Survivors lived in Ontario at the time of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.
- A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support to former residential school students. Immediate support and crisis intervention services are available 24/7 by calling 1-866-925-4419. There is also the Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310, including an online chat function through their website.
“Canada failed to protect the rights of Indigenous children. They were often taken from their families and cultures and subjected to living conditions that failed to nurture and protect them. Canada is committed to supporting people and communities as they heal. Chief Chris Skead and his team are working to help the Anishinaabe of Wauzhushk Onigum Nation community members protect and strengthen their emotional wellbeing. Access to appropriate and safe mental health and cultural supports are essential in helping Survivors, their families and community members in their healing from the intergenerational trauma caused by the legacy of Indian Residential Schools and other racist and colonial policies.”
– The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services Canada
“We appreciate the willingness of Ontario and Canada to not only help find the truth but also provide support that will be needed as we further these investigations. We are opening old wounds, and the process is difficult and warrants utmost care every step of the way. We are recognizing the systemic barriers our Survivors have continued to face that have prevented any healing from occurring all these decades. The healing needs assessment being undertaken by Wauzhushk Onigum will identify our Anishinaabe individual, family, and community needs for healing, including identifying what programs, services, and infrastructure will need to be in place to advance this journey.”
– Chief Chris Skead
Anishinaabe of Wauzhushk Onigum Nation