BC Government: Enhancing Indigenous-led wellness supports for residential school survivors

Press Release

VANCOUVER – Indigenous service providers are receiving $1.5 million in provincial funding to address the urgent need for culturally safe and trauma-informed mental health and wellness supports for residential school survivors and Indigenous peoples as a result of the ongoing findings at former Indian Residential Schools.

This funding is part of $12 million announced in June 2021 for the BC Residential School Response Fund.

The residential school system has caused lasting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual harms for Indigenous peoples. The recent findings at former Indian Residential Schools can make those experiences present and painful. Indigenous service providers have seen a significant increase in demand for mental health and wellness and cultural supports.

Funding announced today will expand and strengthen existing mental health and wellness and cultural services. It will also provide resources for ongoing engagement and supports for survivors, intergenerational survivors and communities during this difficult time. This includes:

  • enhancing the 24/7 cultural support line managed by the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, including additional counselling and cultural support staff;
  • adding capacity for Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society to provide more in-person health and wellness and cultural supports, including services for communities carrying out work on the sites of former Indian Residential Schools and Indian Hospitals; and
  • expanding the Métis Counselling Connection Program delivered by Métis Nation BC with a specific focus on the experience of Métis survivors.

This additional support comes at an important time when people may need more support due to the emotionally triggering nature of recent events. It is important that people have access to services that they can trust when and where they need them. The partnerships with the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, Tsow-Tun Le Lum and Métis Nation BC will ensure there is the operational and clinical capacity available when people are ready to reach out.

Quotes:

Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –

“We know that the findings at former residential schools are deeply painful and that more survivors and their families are reaching out to Indigenous service providers for support. As we approach Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, it is important that we work with Indigenous partners to make sure mental health and cultural supports are available when they are needed.”

Angela White, executive director, Indian Residential School Survivors Society –

“The Indian Residential School Survivors Society would like to express our profound gratitude to the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation for its commitment to reconciliation by taking action towards the mental health and wellness journey of all former students of Residential Schools including intergenerational. We are working tirelessly to support former students of Residential Schools and their families through programs and services for the youth, 2SLGBTQ+, Elders and families. This funding will have a direct impact and be used for services that includes grief and loss counselling, crisis counselling, family and group counselling and programs, traditional healing methods, crisis support and mental health and wellness.”

Nola Jeffrey, executive director, Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society –

“It is a very difficult time for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, with the finding of the unmarked graves of the children at residential school sites, the fentanyl poisoning, COVID-19 and many other challenges that we face in this time in our history. Tsow-Tun Le lum (TTLL) has been providing residential and outreach services to residential school survivors and inter-generational survivors for over 34 years. I am very grateful for the funding as it will help TTLL continue to deliver culturally safe, trauma-informed programming and enable our staff and Knowledge-Keepers to continue to go into community and offer healing ceremonies.”

Lissa Smith, acting president, Métis Nation BC (MNBC) –

“It’s often little known, but many Métis people across the country were victims of the Residential School system in Canada. With this much-needed funding, MNBC will reach out to Métis Residential School survivors and their families and provide much needed connection to community and address their needs with a focus on culturally relevant emotional and mental health services.”

Lydia Hwitsum, First Nations liaison for the residential schools response in B.C. –

“The trauma that Indigenous communities suffered and continue to suffer is difficult to put into words. It is so important to have mental health and wellness services that survivors and their families can trust and space for culturally relevant supports to ensure there is a healing path forward.”

Sonia Isaac-Mann, vice-president of community health and wellness, programs and services, First Nations Health Authority –

“These funds come at a critical time for B.C. First Nations people who continue to suffer the lasting impacts of Canada’s Indian Residential School system. While the government’s financial contribution is welcome news, there is still much more that needs to be done to provide culturally safe health and wellness supports for those directly impacted by the Residential School system, and to support the intergenerational impacts that the Residential School system continues to have on BC First Nations and their communities.”

Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions –

“My heart goes out to all of the Indigenous communities and the survivors and intergenerational survivors of the residential school system. I’m grateful for this partnership that provides urgent Indigenous-led, trauma-informed supports to foster wellness and resilience.”

Support services for Indian residential school survivors in B.C.:

  • First Nations Health Authority:
    https://www.fnha.ca/what-we-do/mental-wellness-and-substance-use/residential-schools
  • Indian Residential School Survivors Society, phone: 1 800 721-0066 or 604 985-4464
  • Tsow-Tun Le Lum for Indigenous peoples in B.C., phone: 1 888 403-3123
  • The Métis Crisis Line for Métis people in B.C., available 24 hours a day at 1 833 638-4722
  • The KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a 24-hour, provincewide Indigenous crisis line for Indigenous peoples in B.C.
    • Adults, call 250 723-4050
    • Children and youth, call 250 723-2040. Toll-free: 1 800 588-8717
  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line for Indigenous people across Canada: Phone toll-free 1 855 242-3310 or chat online: www.hopeforwellness.ca/
  • 24-Hour National Crisis Line for residential school survivors and others affected: 1 866 925-4419

Quick Facts:

  • First Nations or Tribal Councils identified as the caretaker community or co-ordinating body on behalf of caretaker communities can access up to $475,000 from the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation for eligible activities.
  • To date, the BC Residential School Response Fund has provided five caretaker communities with a total of $2.4 million to support their efforts to identify, investigate, locate, document, protect and commemorate sites where children may be buried.
  • There were 18 Indian Residential Schools and a number of Indian Hospitals in B.C.
  • The first residential school to open in B.C. was St. Mary’s in Mission in 1863, which was also the last to close in 1984 after 121 years in operation.

Learn More:

BC Residential School Response Fund:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/indigenous-people/residential-school-response

Contact:

Sarah Plank
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
250 208-9621

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect

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