Alberta government invests in Indigenous-led mental health supports

·2 min read
O’Chiese Chief Douglas Beaverbones says the funding is a big step for First Nations (Alberta Government - image credit)
O’Chiese Chief Douglas Beaverbones says the funding is a big step for First Nations (Alberta Government - image credit)

Indigenous-led mental health efforts in Alberta are receiving a boost of nearly $8 million from the provincial government.

More than $2.8 million will go toward funding counselling services and traditional healing practices for residential school survivors, their families and those impacted by the ongoing discoveries of children's remains.

First Nations, Métis Settlements and the Métis Nation of Alberta can apply for grants of up to $50,000.

"I'm so deeply sorry for what the survivors have lost," Minister of Health Services Tyler Shandro said at a news conference Thursday.

"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. And today, as one step, one step in that partnership, we're here to help you find your own way in healing."

O'Chiese First Nation Chief Douglas Beaverbones described how trauma is passed down to children from parents who faced horrendous abuse.

He recalled speaking at a ceremony in Kelowna on July 1 to honour hundreds of Indigenous children whose remains have been found in unmarked graves in B.C., Saskatchewan.

"We prayed and once they started praying, you could feel it," Beaverbones said. "You could almost feel the kids. It was a very emotional day for people."

He said a lot of First Nations don't have the resources to help their people heal the trauma.

"It's a big step for our people," Beaverbones said about the new provincial funding. "I know it's not going to heal the wounds and the past trauma we face, but I'm glad that we have the funding to continue with the process we're facing, to continue just to move forward."

The remaining $4.9 million will go toward culturally appropriate services at Alberta Health Services aimed at improving health equity.

The services are offered through the Indigenous Wellness Core which is a single point of contact for the health needs of Indigenous people in Alberta.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Do you have information about unmarked graves, children who never came home or residential school staff and operations? Email your tips to CBC's new Indigenous-led team investigating residential schools: WhereAreThey@cbc.ca.

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