Ontario Expanding Mental Health Services for Indian Residential School Survivors

Ontario Expanding Mental Health Services for Indian Residential School Survivors

Indigenous Primary Health Care Council receiving $800,000 for culture-based mental health and addictions trauma care

March 24, 2022

Indigenous Affairs

TORONTO — The Ontario government is providing $800,000 to eight Indigenous health care teams through the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council (IPHCC) to enhance the delivery of integrated, culture-based mental health and addictions trauma care to Indigenous people who are experiencing pain, loss and intergenerational trauma as a result of the Indian Residential School (IRS) system. This funding is in addition to dedicated funding being provided to First Nations leading burial investigations at former Indian Residential Schools across the province.

“Ontario is supporting the Council and its important work providing culture-based treatment and traditional healing programs and services within their communities,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs. “This funding will help provide much-needed support for Survivors, their families and community members suffering from mental health and addictions challenges due to the harms inflicted by the Indian Residential School system.”

Eight participating IPHCC member organizations will receive funding to hire mental health specialists, such as psychiatrists, social workers and wellness workers. This will also include support for training and education to staff and community members. Additionally, member organizations can use funding to develop models of traditional healing, such as healing circles and sweat lodge ceremonies, as well as the purchase of supplies and equipment, including gardening and traditional harvesting supplies.

“Our government is listening to the perspectives of Indigenous peoples and communities on how to improve health outcomes and support actions and initiatives for advancing reconciliation with Indigenous communities across the province,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Today’s announcement is an important step towards ensuring communities throughout the province have access to culturally appropriate mental health and addictions care, when and where they need it.”

Ontario remains committed to providing supports for Indigenous-led initiatives to identify, investigate, protect and commemorate burials at Indian Residential School sites, and address the ongoing mental health impacts of the Residential School system on Indigenous communities across the province. This commitment includes continuing to advance meaningful reconciliation by exploring opportunities with Indigenous partners to deepen Ontarians’ collective awareness and understanding of the terrible legacy of the Indian Residential School system.

Quick Facts

  • The Indigenous Primary Health Care Council is an Indigenous-governed and culture-based organization that supports its members — Indigenous governed interprofessional primary healthcare providers — with advancing and evolving Indigenous primary health care planning and service delivery within Ontario.
  • Indigenous Primary Health Care Council membership currently includes 20 members with the following eight members receiving funding support as part of this initiative: Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre, Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority, Wasauksing First Nation Health Centre, Mino M’shki-ki Indigenous Health Team, Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre, Sweetgrass Health Centre and Mamaway Wiidokdaadwin Primary Care Team.
  • Roughly 8,000 of Canada’s estimated 80,000 Indian Residential School Survivors lived in Ontario when the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement was approved in May 2006.
  • On November 4, 2021, the Ontario government announced it was committing an additional $10 million in funding, beyond the original $10 million announcement in June 2021, to support the identification, investigation, protection and commemoration of Indian Residential School (IRS) burials across the province.
  • On October 29, 2021, Ontario announced more than $36 million in community-led mental health and addictions supports in Indigenous communities across the province including $4 million from the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs to provide critical mental health and addictions (MHA) and trauma supports for Indigenous communities participating in the IRS research and investigations, and funding to urban Indigenous organization for IRS-related MHA and trauma programming for Indigenous people living off-reserve.
  • A National Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support to former residential school students. You can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-Hour National Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. There is also the Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310, including an online chat function through their website.


“We are thankful that the Ontario government has provided this funding which will support sector-wide Mental Health and Addictions Trauma programming. The harm imposed on Indigenous Peoples throughout Canada from the IRS system has created long-term detrimental impacts on our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. The need for culturally safe, trauma-informed programs and services has been further heightened with the recent recoveries of over 1,300 unmarked mass graves of Indigenous children. ”

– Caroline Lidstone-Jones
Chief Executive Officer, Indigenous Primary Health Care Council

“Kitchi-Miigwech to the IPHCC and the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs for supporting traditional healing for Mental Health and Addictions across Kiiwetinoong. This help means more tools and resources will go to where they are needed most. We thank you for helping to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people across Northwestern Ontario.”

– James Morris
Chief Executive Officer and President, Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority

“Mental health and addictions care that is rooted in traditional ways of knowing is vital in our work to improve the wellbeing of Indigenous people, in particular as we continue to confront and deal with the impacts of the Residential School System. This funding will help us expand access to our traditional healing programs and other culturally-aware supports that help survivors heal and find the supports they need.”

– Brian Dokis
Chief Executive Officer, Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre

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