As I reflect on today, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which the Liberal government has finally designated as a statutory holiday, I recognize colonization’s historic and ongoing impacts, including the effects on the mental health and well-being of generations of residential school survivors. The devastating discovery of the remains of hundreds of children in unmarked graves at the site of residential schools this summer added to the intergenerational trauma. In addition, we are seeing that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the mental health of Indigenous peoples, with 54 percent reporting that their mental health had deteriorated in the first six months of the pandemic.
So, when the Liberal Party pledged $1.4 billion (in addition to their earlier promise of $598 million) for mental health and wellness for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis nations as part of their re-election commitment, I was pleased but cautious.
I will be watching closely for a steadfast commitment from the Liberal Party to keep their promises and for no reneging on funding. Only action will truly tell us if the government is committed to reconciliation with Indigenous nations and communities. We must ensure that expenditure is targeted and tracked, as well as keep the government accountable for its funding commitments and working closely with Indigenous communities. Any mental health strategy and funding must include close collaboration with Indigenous healing organizations. But it shouldn’t end there because we know that people’s material and social conditions impact their mental health. Therefore, I will also be watching for action on eliminating all boil water advisories, investing in a housing strategy, committing to UNDRIP, and holding this administration accountable for the many other commitments it has made to Indigenous peoples.
Let’s not waste an opportunity to move closer toward a rightful relationship with Indigenous peoples. Learn how CMHA Toronto is commemorating National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
CEO, CMHA Toronto