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Canadian Public Health Association

Statement from the Canadian Public Health Association on the occasion of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2022


Trigger warning: The information and experiences discussed in this statement may cause trauma invoked by memories of past abuse, and deep intergenerational impacts. The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers immediate help to all Indigenous Peoples across Canada. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call the toll-free Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or connect to the online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.

The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) recognizes that Truth and Reconciliation is an ongoing and evolving process, and that every interaction between Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) Peoples and non-Indigenous people is an opportunity to advance Truth and Reconciliation. CPHA commits to embedding Truth and Reconciliation meaningfully in its work and strives to have robust relations with Indigenous Peoples based on mutual respect, trust, and dialogue. CPHA is sincerely committed to the identification and removal of colonial, oppressive, and racist policies, procedures and practices in our organization and our work.

The telling of truths is essential. Colonialism and racism have repressed, injured, and diminished the lives of the Indigenous Peoples. Until we are completely honest about the destructive, lasting and ongoing impacts of colonial racism, we cannot hope to be reconciled with Indigenous Peoples.

In order for Indigenous Peoples to heal, non-Indigenous people and governments need to acknowledge the ongoing harms caused by colonial racism and demonstrate that we have changed our behaviours.

On this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, healing is of particular importance to the James Smith Cree Nation in Saskatchewan as its members cope with the violence it experienced earlier this month. This avoidable tragedy is the direct result of racist colonial policies of current and former governments. These same policies inflict violence daily on Indigenous People in all parts of our country. While our thoughts and prayers are with the James Smith Cree Nation, they mean nothing without action.

In engaging with the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, CPHA has become aware of the growing crisis in two federally-funded Indigenous-specific addiction programs: the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP) and the National Youth Solvent Abuse Program (NYSAP). Over the years, the lasting multigenerational effects of intergenerational trauma caused by systemic colonialism instituted in Canada (e.g., Indian Residential Schools, Day Schools, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and abuses in the child welfare system) have increased demands placed on the NNADAP and NYSAP workforce. The continued loss of land, loss of culture and language, grief, chronic trauma, forced assimilation, marginalization, and racist policies have direct links to mental health and substance use among First Nations people, which in turn contributes to further stress and trauma.

Despite the strengths inherent within NNADAP and NYSAP, including their provision of culturally-relevant services, the programs contend with significant challenges associated with employment and retention. These include high workloads, stressful working conditions, and salaries below those for similar positions elsewhere in the country. These obstacles are rooted in an outdated funding formula used by the federal government that grossly underestimates the resources required to deliver effective programming. The resulting inability to sustain a highly-skilled workforce, capital investments, and operational expenses for basic utilities has also significantly impacted conditions of work, further exacerbating this challenge. The federal government’s level of program funding has not kept up with its own evolving position towards Reconciliation over the past 30 years.

On this second National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the Canadian Public Health Association calls upon the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, and the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, to work with the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation on strengthening trauma-informed, culturally-relevant, Indigenous-led addictions programs and increasing sustained funding commitments. In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, the federal government must play a coordinating role to ensure clarity in jurisdictional responsibilities among the federal, provincial, territorial governments, and with First Nations governments for community-based public health, primary care, and physician services to address addictions.

CPHA applauds the leadership of all Indigenous communities and collectives working to advance healing across what is now known as Canada. In particular, we acknowledge the work of the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Métis National Council.

  • The Assembly of First Nations’ First Nations Health Transformation Agenda sets out 85 recommendations to federal, provincial and territorial governments. These cover a wide range of policy areas, all aimed at stabilizing profoundly underfunded health programs and increasing self-determination of First Nations in keeping with inherent, Treaty, and international rights.
  • Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) takes a holistic view of Inuit health and strongly believes that significant improvements can be made by addressing current socio-economic conditions in Inuit communities. ITK plays a pivotal role in supporting such efforts and works toward the development of policies and initiatives that are Inuit-specific and improve health conditions across Inuit Nunangat.
  • The Métis Nation is addressing the health and wellness of Métis people and communities through evidence- and culture-based approaches. It is committed to improving health and wellness outcomes in collaboration with federal and provincial governments and other partners. The Canada-Métis Nation Accord provides a distinctions-based, nation-to-nation mechanism to effectively advance health and wellness through Métis governments.

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Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by this statement. 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.
The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers immediate help to all Indigenous Peoples across Canada. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call the toll-free Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or connect to the online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.
You can talk to a mental health professional via Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It is free and confidential.

For more information contact:
Ian Culbert, Executive Director
Canadian Public Health Association
Telephone: 613.725.3769, ext. 142
communications@cpha.ca

About the Canadian Public Health Association
Founded in 1910, the Canadian Public Health Association is the independent voice for public health in Canada with links to the international community. As the only Canadian non-governmental organization focused exclusively on public health, we are uniquely positioned to advise decision-makers about public health system reform and to guide initiatives to help safeguard the personal and community health of Canadians and people around the world. We are a national, independent, not-for-profit, voluntary association. Our members believe in universal and equitable access to the basic conditions that are necessary to achieve health for all.


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