By Dave Baxter
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The province will spend half a million dollars to support programs and services that work to support those who have been impacted by the ongoing trauma caused by the residential school system.
“We know that colonialism, racism and intergenerational trauma resulting from residential schools have greatly impacted the mental health outcomes for Indigenous people in Manitoba,” Manitoba’s Mental Health and Community Wellness Minister Sarah Guillemard said on Monday while announcing $500,000 in funding that will be split between 10 Indigenous residential school healing centres.
And while Guillemard said trauma stemming from the residential school system has been harming Indigenous people and communities for generations, she said that pain and trauma have now become even more amplified as more and more unmarked graves have been discovered near former residential school sites across the country in the last year.
“The legacy of residential schools has led to significant intergenerational trauma, and the finding of unmarked graves has now considerably increased that level of trauma felt by many Indigenous people and communities,” she said.
At Monday’s announcement, which took place at the Circle of Life Thunderbird House in Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Minister of Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Affairs Alan Lagimodiere said the ongoing discovery of unmarked graves near former residential schools across Canada in the last year has brought to light the true harms and horrors of the residential school system.
He said it has also shown why governments need to step up and support residential school survivors and their families to heal from “generational trauma.”
“This is a grim reminder of the cruel impact that these schools have had and are still having on the lives of survivors, Indigenous children, families and communities,” Lagimodiere said. “It is also a reminder that as we work to reconcile our relationships, we must also reconcile with our past.
“It is imperative that we listen, that we learn and support the healing needs, and address intergenerational trauma caused by the residential school program.”
Lagimodiere said that Monday’s announcement also aligns with the province’s mandate to “engage with Indigenous communities and organizations and with all Manitobans on a path toward reconciliation.”
During Monday’s announcement, Guillemard said the funding announcement is a first step for the province to support the mental health and overall wellbeing of residential school survivors and their families.
“Today’s investment really is a starting point to investments to help survivors of residential schools,” Guillemard said.
“You start with enhancing the capacity of existing programs that already have those relationships, and then we will be in ongoing discussions with Indigenous leaders and communities to find out where other strategic investments can be made to help and support those who are healing from trauma.
“This is a starting point, it’s not the endpoint, and there will be other investments to help support survivors and their families.”
According to Guillemard, counselling services, as well as cultural and emotional supports, will be enhanced at the 10 centres that will receive funding, and they also hope those organizations can use the money to host large events that bring residential school survivors and their families together for “healing.”
“We would like to offer residential school survivors the chance to attend healing events, gatherings and other educational events or conferences,” Guillemard said.
And one organization that works with residential school survivors said they have already been able to hold an event because of the funding, as the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre of Winnipeg Inc., recently hosted the We Are Still Here: The Survivors Legacy Conference in Winnipeg, an event that brought hundreds of residential school survivors together for three days of presentations and workshops in Winnipeg.
“We were able to hold a huge three-day event that hosted an average of 600 survivors and their families per day. I can’t say enough about the support provided and connections made during this event,” Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre director of programs Noella Gentes said.
“With this funding, our survivors, their families and communities are feeling supported through their healing journey, especially during these difficult times.”
– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.