In June 2015, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released 94 calls to action in its final report. Since that time, the MHCC has committed to doing the hard work required to breathe life into some of those recommendations.
Through the leadership of the Executive Team, a decision was taken to provide staff and Board Directors with the tools and the knowledge to advance the goals of Reconciliation, both personally and professionally.
A reconciliation dialogue workshop, hosted by Reconciliation Canada, was mandated for all staff, executive and Board members.
These dialogues, undertaken in 2016-2017, helped re-orient the MHCC’s understanding of how to effectively align with Indigenous partners. The MHCC is striving to model cultural humility in word and deed. This means partnering with communities to co-create solutions to address the urgent mental wellness needs of Indigenous peoples.
Through this process, the MHCC acknowledges the importance of leading from behind. Many programs have enjoyed great success because of the trust we are building with individuals, communities and organizations.
Examples include the extraordinary response to the HEADSTRONG youth anti-stigma summits, developed in partnership with First Nations and Métis communities.
HEADSTRONG supports Indigenous youth of this generation in their quest to live in two worlds and find success. We see their strengths and offer an important vehicle for social change that shows them their voice matters, and is being heard.
The inaugural First Nations, Métis and Rural HEADSTRONG Summit, was held at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta on October 4, 2016.
Two additional summits were held in fiscal 2016-2017, empowering 500 students from 24 First Nations to enact mental wellness projects in their communities. Indigenous communities report that their engagement in the development of the program has led to meaningful representation of identity, culture and spirituality.
The MHCC has received inquiries from national health organizations seeking guidance and advice on advancing their own journeys to reconciliation. The MHCC is both proud and humbled to share our learnings with those walking on the path for the first time. However, it is with great humility that we recognize how far we have yet to travel.
“We are listening to their ideas and helping them feel connected to their cultural identity. These kids are determined to be the ones to break the cycle.” – Shane Wells, chool Counsellor, Kainai High School on the impact of the inaugural Headstrong Summit
This kind of community-led effort also informed the development of the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) First Nations and Inuit curriculums. The curriculums were developed in partnership with communities, both remote and urban. They are designed to empower communities by identifying and celebrating existing circles of support, while acknowledging the effects of colonialism and intergenerational trauma.
The first step is to have adequate numbers of trainers to respond to the demand from First Nations and Inuit communities. The MHCC currently supports train-the-trainer programs across Canada. We have also established communities of practice for the trainers, which create a supportive space for problem solving and exchanging ideas. As of March 31, 2017, over 200 participants have been trained in MHFA Inuit, and close to 1,800 have been trained in MHFA First Nations.
The MHCC is committed to ensuring that cultural humility and mutual respect inform the development of all future projects. We have a unique opportunity to lead by example and show other national organizations that reconciliation is the only way forward.
“With a quiet conviction and determined commitment, the Mental Health Commission of Canada has begun to walk the long hard road to reconciliation. This kind of leadership is made up of countless words and deeds, big and small, which amount to honoring our differences, building bridges, and looking for ways to build a new way forward together.” – Chief Robert Joseph, O.B.C., Hereditary Chief, Gwawaenuk First Nation, Ambassador, Reconciliation Canada