By John Watson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Alberta’s government is investing nearly $8 million to support Indigenous-led efforts to support mental health within communities across the province.
In a release published July 22, the grants will be aimed at efforts specifically surrounding support for healing of residential school survivors and their families.
“The funding is a part of the Alberta government’s efforts to address the painful legacy of residential schools,” said Minister of Health, Tyler Shandro.
“Mental health supports are especially important as burial sites continue to be uncovered. We are committed to working with First Nations and Metis peoples to achieve real and meaningful improvements in all aspects of health and well-being.”
Within Wheatland County, there are two sites where residential schools once stood, being the Crowfoot Residential School, and the Old Sun School. Similarly, four former agency school sites, which predated the residential school system, are also in Siksika territory.
According to the release, the new grant program is being called the Residential School Mental Health Support Grant Program.
First Nations, Metis settlements, and the Metis Nation of Alberta will be eligible to apply for funding to assist existing supports and services.
This may include counselling services, as well as traditional healing practices for those, and the families of whom were affected by residential schools.
“Trauma associated with residential schools is far-reaching and dramatically impacts community. The path to reconciliation is through independence,” said Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Mike Ellis.
“We hope this funding will provide more independence for Indigenous and Metis peoples in Alberta to improve their mental wellness and begin recovering from community trauma.”
Grants being made available through the program will be allocated in increments of up to $50,000 each. This part of the program will see a total budget of $2.8 million.
According to the release, the goal for the program is to have it made available as soon as possible, as investigations continue at former residential school sites for unmarked graves.
Additionally, the provincial government is providing $4.9 million over a two-year period to the Alberta Health Services Indigenous Wellness Core.
“The recent discoveries of unmarked gravesites across the country continue to reopen the wounds for the families of those who were lost,” said Rick Wilson, minister of Indigenous relations.
This grant is another step in addressing the painful legacy of residential schools and helping families find closure. Now is the time to support each other so we can collectively heal and continue to work towards reconciliation.”
No exact date of availability was provided regarding the grant program, and the release suggested more information about the application process would be made available soon.
John Watson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the STRATHMORE TIMES . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.