Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP)
|| That this House do now adjourn.
She said: Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to note that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.
I am honoured to stand here in this Parliament on behalf of the people of Northern Manitoba and across Canada. I am honoured to carry our message, their message, a plea to the Prime Minister and the government to save the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is not just an organization. It is not just 134 community projects. It is not just 1,000 community workers. It is not just thousands of survivors, their families and their communities. It is a symbol, a symbol of Canada's commitment to residential school survivors, their families and their communities. It is a symbol of the commitment of first nations, Métis and Inuit toward healing. It is a symbol of the hope that day by day and year by year, the peoples and communities that were subjected to despicable abuse and hardship can move ahead and piece together identities, lives, families and communities.
That is why this debate is about a test. It is a test of Canada's true commitment to first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. It is a test of Canada's historic national apology made in 2008 in this very chamber. It is a test of Canada's commitment to the journey toward truth and reconciliation.
There are many stories of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. There is the report released by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada that indicates the success of the program and the identified need for it to keep going. There are the countless positive evaluations received over the years since its inception 10 years ago.
However, there are also the stories of South Indian Lake, St. Theresa Point, Prince Albert, Edmonton, Clyde River, Charlottetown, Yellowknife, Halifax, Pikogan, Saskatoon, Pangnirtung, Vancouver, Watson Lake and Winnipeg. There is the story of Denise Packo, who spoke of the key language programming offered by the AHF that was crucial for a young person who said that she did not feel Indian because she did not know the language that was stamped out generations ago because of residential schools.
There is the story of Louis Knott and Louisa Monias who told of the value of the camps organized by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation in reconnecting with the land and becoming healthy. There is the story of Mrs. Moose who shared the need for survivors to come together in sharing circles.
There are the communities where the AHF program is the only program that gives young people somewhere to go and provides reconciliation and rehabilitation when they leave the criminal justice system. There are the AHF programs that are in women's shelters, where women can seek shelter from violence and domestic abuse often related to the pain and legacy of abuse from the residential schools.
There is the work of Amanda Lathlin, Jennifer Wood, Brian Cook, Qajaq Robinson, Okalik Ejesiak and Alvin Dixon. Their work has broken the silence of residential school experiences across the country and their impact on future generations.
That is what the Aboriginal Healing Foundation is about: first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples guiding their healing processes in their own communities. To lose that ability to make these decisions is a step back, way back.
As we sit in this chamber, we call on the Prime Minister and the government to think back to the apology of 2008, an apology that took place only less than two years ago. It was an apology that started our country on a journey. It started a new chapter for first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples who suffered through the residential schools. It began a journey of hope that Canada would change its step and work with aboriginal peoples toward healing and reconciliation.
We then saw the commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a historic initiative, bringing aboriginal and non-aboriginal people together. However, the reality is that without the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, that apology and the commitment to reconciliation lose their foundation.
As Ed Azure Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation said, “By cutting off the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, you are cutting off the arms and legs of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission”.
As Jimmy D. Spence, a respected elder, said, “The cut of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation for me makes the National Apology empty”.
Let there be no doubt that the need for healing is not restricted to a focused experience at residential schools. Residential schools caused an impact that we cannot even imagine: the loss of a sense of family; the loss of skills that are related to parenting, raising children; the loss of skills that children who were ripped away from their families into schools where their language, their culture, their identity was beaten out of them; the stamping out of language, something that is so central to the identity of anyone and central for the identity of first nations, Inuit and Métis people; the emergence of violence, violence that has taken over families and communities, violence that in many cases hides the pain, a pain felt by survivors, by their children, by generations that have come after, violence that comes out in the gangs and the criminal activities in communities across the country, violence that comes out in violence toward oneself and the high rate of suicide in first nations, Inuit and Métis communities across the country.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation seeks to heal from that violence, seeks to engage first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples who face that pain, that violence, that history.
Let us fast-forward to today's generation. I come from a generation that came after residential schools, a generation that has seen the evolution of aboriginal rights, that has seen the results of the fights and the battles fought by aboriginal leaders who are here today, aboriginal peoples who have fought for control over their schools boards, for control over their education, for the creation of their own schools. There are challenges, immense challenges facing the generations that have followed, the underfunding, the inadequate infrastructure, the overcrowding of first nations, Métis and Inuit schools, like we do not see in other places in Canada.
Yet working to overcome these challenges, survivors and the next generation say that they want to move forward. That is why it is not too late for the Prime Minister and his government to stand up for their commitment of the past year and save the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
This is a debate about the future, a generation of people looking toward us and how we will move forward, how first nations, Inuit and Métis people will move forward.
I have appealed directly to the Prime Minister because I watched that apology. I believed him. Many believed him. That apology crossed partisan lines and brought Canadians together. Were those words about the past or were they about the future?
I now want to make it clear that if the Aboriginal Healing Foundation were to be cancelled, if the government does not listen, we will ensure that the message is clear. We will ensure that it is wrong that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation was cut.
Given that commitment, that the initiative by the government, can we not recreate that spirit of the apology? Can we not recreate that spirit that drove the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Can we not do it by committing to save the Aboriginal Healing Foundation?
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation, after all, is more than 134 projects. It is more than hundreds of communities, thousands of community workers, thousands of elders, survivors and young people. It is a symbol of hope, the hope that the Prime Minister and the government will save the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
Mrs. Carol Hughes:
Mr. Speaker, I am still learning.
For over 10 years the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has provided support to the survivors and the families of survivors of the residential school system. This good work will come to an end while the need it was intended to address continues.
We are well aware that the government made a formal apology to the victims of the residential school system, an apology for the treatment of young aboriginals who were subjected to unspeakable acts of physical, sexual, mental and cultural abuse in that system.
It was an important and vital step in the restitution of first nations people, as the government finally admitted that what had occurred in the school system was a horrible scar on this nation's history, in particular on first nations history.
However, it is not enough to simply make apologies for the residential school system. We need programs in place to help those who have been touched by these wrongdoings to allow their voices to be heard. We need programs in place to help those who are still suffering from the torment of abuse to be able to allow their emotional scars to heal. We need programs like the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to ensure that the apology the government has made to the aboriginal people of Canada adds up to more than just flowery language.
The apology was a first step in providing restitution to the legacy of abuse that the residential school system had cost first nations in this country, but first steps amount to little unless they are followed by a march in the right direction.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is of vital importance to the reconciliation of first nations people in Canada. The foundation provides services and community-based aboriginal healing initiatives from a community perspective.
Instead of being a top down government run organization, the AHF works in collaboration with communities to provide grants that allow for healing initiatives that operate at the local level.
As we all know, no two communities operate the same and this can be said about aboriginal communities as well. The AHF funds 134 independently run programs. Many of these are unique to the circumstances of the victims they are serving.
It is this type of approach to reconciliation and healing that top down government run programming would not be able to provide for these communities.
The riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing has a large aboriginal population. The first nations represent 14% of the riding's population. If the government does not restore funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, there will be serious repercussions for this population.
Let me give some examples of programs that go to help support the aboriginal people within my community. The AHF provides funding for the community healing strategy of the Shingwauk Education Trust
The community healing strategy is continuously being developed through survivor and community input, and provides individual support programs, a staff wellness program, a traditional healing process for damaged spirits, and a community evaluation matrix for residential school survivors.
The Enaahtig Healing Lodge & Learning Centre has developed a trauma recovery and residential program. The mission statement of the trauma recovery and residential program states:
|| The project encompasses an intensive two week trauma recovery residential program and allows us to develop components to the already existing four week residential programs being offered at Enaahtig. The ongoing four week programs would serve as an aftercare program to the intensive two week trauma recovery as well as address the needs of those individuals who not necessarily in active trauma.
These are just two examples of programs that help the Ojibwa-Anishinabek people in my riding, through grant funding provided by the AHF.
Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee of the Union of Ontario Indians is disappointed and extremely concerned about the loss of funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. The Union of Ontario Indians indicates that failure to continue with this program, which has seen great successes in assisting their people, would be a shame and would prove to be a huge mistake.
The union points out that other government services would then face the increased load of dealing with the social, physical and mental health issues that residential school survivors and their families are facing, not really knowing what these first nations communities actually went through.
The damage that the residential school system has caused our first nations people is incredibly far-reaching. Take, for example, the James Bay area. Last year, there were 13 youth suicides among the aboriginal people in that community. Of those 13, 11 have family members whose roots can be traced back to one particular residential school.
Aboriginal suicide rates are five to seven times higher than other ethnic groups in Canada. If we can take any steps in helping to reduce those numbers, it is the government's duty to do so.
My colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay has made comments on the need for the aboriginal healing program. He was quoted as saying, “It's disheartening to see that the government shows so much disinterest in helping these communities. Over and over again we hear of the horror stories and now we see a government that is intent on ending funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, a foundation that has proven to be effective in helping in the healing process”.
I also have a colleague from the Northwest Territories who said, “In the past 10 years, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has had a tremendous impact on aboriginal people with trauma from the residential school program which has such a dominant reality for aboriginal children in northern Canada”.
These are disconcerting words from my colleagues who have seen, first-hand, the damage that the residential school system has caused for people in their first nations communities.
A member of the National Residential School Survivors' Society has provided me with his take on why the AHF is important. He tells me that the services being delivered by the AHF are community-based by people on the ground working with people from those communities. It is local and not out of INAC in Ottawa.
He believes that the government is ignoring the long-term impacts of the residential school system, specifically the damage that is being caused to the children and grandchildren of residential school survivors.
If members take nothing else away from this, just know that the people working for the National Residential School Survivors' Society wholeheartedly support the work of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and have seen first-hand the positive results this is making in their communities.
In the years since the AHF has been in operation, it has provided healing and support services to countless aboriginal people across this country, but it is certainly not enough time to repair all of the damage the residential school system has caused. The National Residential School Survivors' Society states that one cannot take 150 years of abuse and expect to have it dealt with within 12 years.
I want to add a few more comments from this society. It said, “Government believes the Commons Experience Payment should suffice and are ignoring the long term impacts...What is now occurring is that the perpetrator, that being the government, is choosing an avenue of being micromanager and adding more bureaucratic red tape; therefore are continuing to abuse the survivors”. It went on to say, “Courts found the government liable, because the government apologized does not mean that the healing has ended; this is a long term process”.
If the government is serious about providing reconciliation for first nations people, then we cannot in good conscience let the AHF slip away.
I would like to quote some information that was provided to the hon. Prime Minister by Jack Layton. He said:
|| For many people living in rural and remote areas, the programs that the Aboriginal Healing Fund (AHF) helped create were their only window into mental health programming, counselling and therapy. There simply are no other resources available. When the Aboriginal Healing Fund programs ends, nothing will replace them. That is particularly true in Nunavut and the other Inuit settlement areas where Aboriginal Healing Fund programs are the only ones currently operating that deal specifically with residential school trauma.
Mr. Speaker, I just realized I made a mistake a few minutes ago and I mentioned my leader's name. I apologize.
I would once again like to thank my colleague from Churchill for bringing this issue to the forefront.
Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to further the debate about federal funding of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
We all know that the Indian residential school system is a sad but undeniable part of Canada's history. This was an educational system in which young children were removed from their homes, and often taken far from their communities.
First nations, Inuit and Métis languages and cultural practices were frequently prohibited in these schools. Accounts of the abuse and neglect suffered by some students are haunting, and will always be haunting. Tragically, some of these children died while attending residential schools and others never returned home.
The consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were for the most part negative, not only for the individual students and families but also for the lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language. The legacy of Indian residential schools contributes to social problems that continue to exist in many communities today.
Only by working together can Canadians come to terms with our past, however painful, and create a better future. Our Conservative government is committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian residential schools.
Four years ago, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement earned the approval of all the key participants: the Government of Canada, former students, several churches, the Assembly of First Nations and representatives for Inuit. The agreement was the culmination of an exhaustive process of research, conciliation and negotiation.
The settlement agreement is a historic milestone for Canada. It is the largest settlement of its kind ever negotiated in this country. Yet acknowledging past sins is only an important first step. The greater goal of justice for the victimized through the unflinching pursuit of truth, reparation and reconciliation is the call we must now remain vigilant to heed.
On June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister rose in the House to deliver an unprecedented apology for Canada's role in Indian residential schools. Regarding the terrible legacy of the residential schools and the shattering intergenerational impacts that continue in first nation communities, the Prime Minister addressed aboriginal leaders here in the House of Commons. He said:
|| The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a government, and as a country. There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential schools system to ever again prevail.
|| You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time, and in a very real sense we are now joining you on this journey.
As acknowledged by the Prime Minister, individuals and communities affected by Indian residential schools have been working on recovering from their trauma for a long time. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation has played a leading role in that effort. And for that role, we thank them.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation was established in 1998 in response to recommendations arising from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Managed by aboriginal peoples, it is a not-for-profit national funding agency that encourages and supports community-based healing efforts addressing the intergenerational legacy of physical and sexual abuse in Canada's Indian residential schools system. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation funded projects to help aboriginal individuals, families and communities to heal from the effects of abuses and cultural losses suffered as a result of attendance at Indian residential schools.
The federal government provided the foundation with an initial grant of $350 million to fund community-based healing projects during a 10-year period. Toward the end of this initial mandate, the government subsequently provided an additional $40 million for 2005 to 2007.
As part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the parties to the settlement agreement negotiated an additional $125 million endowment for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. To best meet the needs of former students, in 2007 the foundation laid out a five-year project spending plan for this $125 million. The plan concentrated spending on existing community-based healing projects in the first three years of the settlement agreement, when the greatest demand for services was expected. About 134 community-based healing projects were funded through March 31 of this year, and 12 healing centres were funded through March 12, 2012.
In all, the Government of Canada has contributed a total of $515 million to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation since 1998. The work of the foundation has been invaluable and we recognize that. Again, we thank the Aboriginal Healing Foundation for its dedication in providing healing programs and services to address the experiences of survivors of Indian residential schools, their families and communities.
Reciting funding figures for the past 12 years does little to illuminate exactly what community-based healing entails. In its more than a decade of operations, with a half-billion dollars of federal funding, the foundation has supported programs delivered from coast to coast to coast.
For those who are interested in following up on the impacts of these projects and what they mean in some of these communities, I recommend a feature article in the spring 2010 edition of Healing Words, which is a periodical published by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation was never intended to last forever. As part of the foundation's 2010 to 2015 corporate plan, it outlined a wind-down strategy. The 12 healing centres will continue to provide services until March 2012. Over the coming three years, as part of its wind-down strategy, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation will fulfill the remaining work of its mandate: the publication of annual reports, corporate plans, newsletters, the production of five more major research projects and the gradual reduction of staff and space. In many ways, of course, the work of the foundation laid the foundation for the Indian residential schools settlement itself.
The Government of Canada's decision to fund the Aboriginal Healing Foundation beyond its original mandate demonstrates a commitment to accountability for the legacy of Indian residential schools. The good work of organizations funded by the foundation informs the reconciliation with aboriginal peoples for all Canadians and has been essential to Canada's continued growth and unity as a nation.
Implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement began more than two years ago and aims to resolve a painful legacy. The settlement agreement includes individual and collective elements:
Those elements are common experience payments for all eligible former students who resided at a recognized Indian residential school; the independent assessment process to investigate and compensate claims of sexual and serious physical abuse; a truth and reconciliation commission; a series of commemorative initiatives; and measures to support healing such as the Indian residential schools resolution health support program and an endowment to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
No amount of money can fully heal the damage done by the Indian residential school system, but compensating victims is an important part of recognizing and amending the injustice. At the time of the implementation of the settlement agreement, it was estimated that there were approximately 80,000 persons alive who had attended the schools. It was forecast that approximately 12,500, or about 15%, of these men and women would be eligible for compensation through the independent assessment process. They are individuals who went through further abuse and trauma at the schools. It is now expected that approximately 21,000 individuals will apply.
As of three weeks ago, the Government of Canada has received nearly 100,000 applications for common experience payments. It has processed more than 96,000 of these, and more than 75,600 have been paid, bringing the total payment to former students to over $1.5 billion. This includes the advance payments totalling almost $83 million already provided to former students aged 65 and over.
The common experience reconsideration process is a second review by the government, as administrator of the court-supervised process, to ensure that the original common experience payments decision for each applicant is accurate and appropriate. The review also considers any additional information provided by the applicant.
As of March 8, 2010, the Government of Canada has received a total of nearly 15,000 claims related to the independent assessment process and to alternative dispute resolution claims. More than 5,000 hearings have been held to date, and total compensation related just to these claims was more than $530 million as of February 26 of this year.
So good progress has been made on handling those applications, going through the review process. I relate those numbers so people can get an idea of the magnitude of the problem that faces us all and the serious impact it had on aboriginal people, and consequently on Canada as well.
As my hon. colleagues can appreciate, the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is also intended to promote healing amongst all Canadians. Commission hearings will serve to shine a light on a dark period of our history, as I have already talked about, and to promote reconciliation at both the national and community levels.
The creation and preservation of a complete and accurate historical record of the Indian residential school system and its shameful legacy will allow Canadians to confront the past and build a better future.
The commission will honour the experiences of former students and their families, pay tribute to their suffering, assign responsibility appropriately, and foster healing across the nation.
Further, another $20 million has been allocated for commemoration activities that will promote awareness and public education about the residential school system and its impact.
As all of us know, however, we must consider all these accomplishments against the backdrop of our current financial situation as well. Budget 2010 takes an important step toward balancing the books. We are emphasizing restraint in government expenses. During the recent economic downturn, many Canadian families and businesses have had little choice but to exercise restraint.
Fairness to future generations requires that government must strive to keep costs under control today.
In this new reality, the Government of Canada is doing its utmost to ensure that former residential school students and their families will have access to mental health and emotional supports.
Budget 2010 commits an additional $199 million over the next two years to ensure that necessary mental health and emotional support services continue to be provided to former students and their families and that payments to former students are made in a timely and effective way.
As well, the Government of Canada continues to fulfill its obligation to provide emotional and mental health supports to former Indian residential school students and their family members participating in the settlement agreement through Health Canada's resolution health support program. Under the program former students and family members who participate in the agreement are eligible to receive mental health and emotional support services. These include professional services, para-professional services delivered by aboriginal community-based workers, culturally appropriate supports through elders, and transportation to access supports not available in the home community.
I would like to address the accusation that people in Health Canada are insensitive or are unable to deliver services in some way. I do not think that is fair to some of the health workers out there, many of whom are aboriginal. In a survey that was done it was found that 90% of the claimants who responded to the survey received some of the health services support from Health Canada, and 93% of the survey respondents indicated that their experience was safer and more supportive as a result of the health services provided. Most importantly, 89% of the claimants who received counselling indicated that the resolution process was a positive experience. Those workers obviously were sensitive and did a good job of delivering important emotional and mental health services to aboriginal people.
it is also important to note that the funding allocated to Health Canada in the federal budget is not a re-allotment of the money previously allocated to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. The $66 million over two years included in budget 2010 is new money. The additional money for Health Canada's existing Indian residential schools resolution health support program was allotted to meet the anticipated increase in demand for services due to the implementation of various processes of the settlement agreement.
Budget 2010 also allocates an additional $133 million over two years to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to support the independent assessment process and the common experience payment. In addition, the Government of Canada also funds two other initiatives designed to support survivors of Indian residential schools, also the national Indian residential school crisis line which provides telephone assistance and guidance on how to access services. The future care program enables eligible victims to access additional funds for counselling on top of that.
The future care program is linked to the independent assessment process and claimants can apply for funding to cover the costs of future treatment or counselling services worth up to $10,000 for general care and up to $15,000 for psychiatric care. To date, the average independent assessment process award is about $125,000 for an individual, and the average future care component is more than $8,000.
I believe it is abundantly clear that the Government of Canada is committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian residential schools and recognizes that bringing closure to the legacy lies at the heart of reconciliation and a renewal of the relationships between aboriginal people who attended these schools, their families and communities and all Canadians.
Hon. Chuck Strahl:
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the leader of the NDP, who the Prime Minister thanked especially for his leadership during the development of that apology. I thank him not only for his ongoing interest in it but his passion on the subject, and no one doubts that. I just wanted to start with that.
I would urge the hon. leader to go to Health Canada's website, or I would be happy to make a copy of the document I have in front of me, to try to describe in some detail what the Indian residential schools resolution health support program will do for each and every survivor, their families, people who were in their homes, and the intergenerational impacts that it might have had.
When Health Canada talks about emotional support for one of the services it provides, what it wants to have happen is that these are services to be provided by local aboriginal organizations. They will be delivered by aboriginal mental health workers who will work with people through the entire settlement agreement process and following. In other words, it is aboriginal organizations with aboriginal mental health workers.
There will be cultural support, which means a coordination of services, working with elders and/or traditional healers in order to make sure that we give the best possible help to individuals and their families in a culturally sensitive way that will have the biggest impact.
There will also be professional counselling services. If people say they need the help of a professional psychiatrist and if that is not available in their community, then we will provide transportation to get them to those services.
There is an effort. I do not want to leave the impression that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, and the good work that I acknowledge it has done, is the only thing available. An extraordinary effort will be made to make sure that help for students and their families is delivered appropriately, in a culturally sensitive way, by aboriginal mental health workers whenever possible, and to get that help to them whether we have to bring help to them or bring them to the help.
There will be an extraordinary effort on an ongoing basis. This will not end, because this is both a moral and a legal obligation, but more importantly a moral one, that Canadians owe to aboriginal people in the long term.
Mr. Todd Russell (Labrador, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to the issue of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, a very fundamental issue. I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague, the member for Vancouver Centre. I also want to thank the Speaker for allowing this important emergency debate to take place.
As the Liberal critic for aboriginal affairs, I have been hearing from many of the impacted individuals, groups and organizations concerning the end of funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. In fact, despite being excluded thus far from the formal Indian residential school settlement, several organizations in my riding have obtained Aboriginal Healing Foundation funding for work with former students in Labrador. That is the beauty of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
In Labrador and throughout the country, 134 projects funded by the AHF have worked with residential school survivors in aboriginal communities to move beyond the residential school legacy. They are now on the chopping block.
The Nunatsiavut government represents the self-governing Inuit of Labrador. Labrador Aboriginal Legal Services works with members of all three aboriginal cultures in Labrador, the Innu, Métis and Inuit. Both organizations have operated important healing programs with this funding. They say that the trust and momentum is only now starting and only now building and they will need to lay off people. The capacity they have built will need to be downsized.
These organizations, along with others across Canada, have been very vocal in expressing their utter shock that the recent federal budget did not provide for a continuation. I share their disappointment, especially given that all Canadians and the aboriginal people who have been served through the foundation have received exemplary service.
The minister's own report from December 2009 finds that:
||...AHF healing programs at the community level are effective in facilitating healing at the individual level, and are beginning to show healing at the family and community level;
|| Impacts of the programs are reported as positive by the vast majority of respondents....
The report goes on to state:
||...that one of the most profound impacts of the healing programs (and the Apology) is that the “silence” and shame surrounding IRS abuses are being broken....
It is undeniable that Aboriginal Healing Foundation funded programs and services have been successful throughout Canada, from coast to coast to coast. They have been accountable, transparent and are delivering results. Enrolment and the demand is up by 40% among survivors and their families. More young people than ever are involved in the cases. Alcohol abuse and suicides are down. These are tangible results and real results.
I emphasize that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation also responds to all three aboriginal peoples of Canada, including the Métis and Inuit, who share in this history, who shared in the apology and who are sharing the healing journey together.
Just today, along with other members of this House, I received a very powerful and emotional open letter, jointly authored by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, describing the impact of the Healing Foundation and of the impending loss of funding on the Inuit in the Arctic. It states:
|| As the term of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation is coming to an end our people are anxious and fearful of the tremendous loss this means to them. ...The AHF is ours, and our people trust it and take pride in it.
The many aboriginal peoples of Canada are culturally and regionally diverse and often have differing interests or views but on this matter there is solidarity. The voices in support of the foundation have come from right across the country. We have heard voices from Nunavut where the Legislative Assembly passed a unanimous motion calling on the federal government to reinstate funding for the foundation. There were many passionate speeches in support of that resolution.
I want to briefly quote the words of the hon. Hunter Tootoo who said:
|| This is a long journey. The way I look at it, the two-year funding commitment from the federal government to help individuals along this road and then they paved the road, the road only goes for two kilometres, a kilometre per year of funding, for example, and then it runs into a cliff and then everyone’s standing there, they have been abandoned.
We have heard voices from Nunavik, Arctic Quebec, such as Annie Popert of Kuujuaq. These are her words in the Nunatsiaq News:
||...it seems to me that any time we make some head-way, the governments cut us off. This includes the non-renewal of funds to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation by the federal government.
We have heard National Chief Shawn Atleo, representing the Assembly of First Nations, say:
|| We cannot heal one hundred years of abuses in twelve years. Ending projects supported by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation now will create a gap in support at a time when it's needed the most.
Those are powerful statements.
When we appreciate the history and legacy of residential schools and the efforts that aboriginal peoples and communities have made to overcome that legacy, we get a sense of where these leaders and individuals are coming from. They speak from the heart. Many others speak from the heart, like in the minister's own report when they used the words to describe the loss of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation as disastrous, a betrayal of trust, a removal of hope.
Aboriginal leaders spoke from the heart on the floor of the chamber almost two years ago, on June 11, 2008, just as the Prime Minister and all of the party leaders on behalf of all Canadians spoke from the heart on that historic day, the day of the residential schools apology. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is intimately tied to the apology. It is part of the reconciliation and healing process and helps turn the words of the apology into action.
I turn back to the letter from Nunavut Tunngavik and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association. President Kaludjak and President Eegeesiak end with this plea:
|| Please join us and help to ensure that the words in the apology on June 11, 2008, are more than just words.
Those who lived the residential schools experience and those who experience the intergenerational impacts need more than words. They need a hand up, they need healing and they need support. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation provided it.
I urge the government to reconsider, to think about the words of the residential schools apology and to turn toward continued support, to put those words into action.
For many the healing has just begun. I say to the government that it is a time of opportunity, a time of healing and a time to raise individuals up, families up and communities up. This is an opportunity for Canada to grow as a country. I urge the minister to restore the funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
Hon. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to protest the Conservative government's decision to end funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation suddenly and with little warning, effective tomorrow, March 31.
This funding began with $350 million in 1998 by a Liberal government and it was meant to allow aboriginal indigenous communities to take charge of the healing, which they needed very sorely to recover from acts of colonialism that have created generations upon generations of aboriginal people with a legacy of pain, a lack of self-worth, a sense of shame and deculturalization. It left them with a legacy of physical, mental and sexual abuse and with family breakdowns, addiction, despair, suicide.
Many governments have subsequently tried to “heal” aboriginal peoples. Many governments have since tried programs and initiatives to ensure that these effects were no longer evident, and they all failed. They failed because they did not have the right vehicle.
The Aboriginal Healing Fund was meant to:
||—promote reconciliation and encourage and support Aboriginal people and their communities in building and reinforcing sustainable healing processes that address the legacy of physical, sexual, mental, cultural, and spiritual abuses in the residential school system, including intergenerational impacts.
There are two words that I want to focus on: intergenerational impact. That means that it would not be fixed in one generation, that it did not just span one generation, that it would take a long time for the results and for the healing to occur. Sustainable means that it must go on until whatever time it takes for healing to occur.
I am a physician. Healing does not occur because I will it to. Healing does not occur because I say I will do this for six months. Healing occurs in its own time. With all of the centuries of pain that aboriginal people have suffered, it will take a great deal of time for that healing to occur.
I would like the minister to note the words he said in his defence “that the healing fund had done good work but it was never meant to be a permanent policy or permanent service delivery”. That alone tells us the hon. minister does not understand the process of healing for indigenous peoples.
Even if he does not understand it, let us look at what his own department had to say a year ago with regard to the outcomes and the effectiveness of this fund:
|| Although evidence points to increasing momentum in individual and community healing, it also shows that in relation to the existing and growing need, the healing “has just begun”. For Inuit projects in particular, the healing process has been delayed due to the later start of AHF projects for Inuit.
That was said by the minister's department in its evaluation of the Aboriginal Healing Fund. It noted that the majority of projects were not sustainable without AHF funding.
The department said as well that the evaluation “results strongly support the case for continued need for these programs due to the complex needs and long-term nature of the healing process” and that “this support is needed at least until the settlement agreement compensation processes and commemorative initiatives are completed and ideally beyond until indicators of community healing are much more firmly established and aboriginal people in communities either no longer need such supports or are able to achieve healing from other effects and through other means”. This is very clear. The minister does not have to listen to me. He just has to listen to his own department.
Yet the minister further argues that the government has transferred a lot of this healing fund to Health Canada for delivery. It will deliver $199 million over two years, $130 million of that over two years is going to go to claims settlement. Only $66 million over two years, which is $33 million a year, will actually go to the delivery of emotional support. Last year that emotional support fund spent $39 million, so in effect to give $33 million a year means the government has cut that fund as well.
What is really important is that people have to understand the nature of aboriginal healing. This is a people whose healing is based in communities. It is a holistic healing. It is culturally appropriate and delivered by their own people. When aboriginal people deliver their own healing in ways that are culturally appropriate, what they are also saying to each other is that they can do these things, they are worthwhile, they know how to do these things. They have knowledge, capability and are able. They do not need someone else to come and fix them. That is exactly why the healing fund is important.
The need for this fund is so great that not only has INAC, the department itself, studied this, and I quoted INAC, but the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission also said that this was an extremely important fund.
We heard from the territorial government of Nunavut that this was very important. We heard from the Women's Shelter of Montreal that it was important. However, I want to give hon. members a quote from the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The chair, Justice Murray Sinclair, said that to hold back during the duration of the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the healing fund, “We felt the aboriginal healing foundation's funding should be continued at least for the term of our commission”.
In Nunavut, when members of the legislative assembly unanimously voted on Thursday to press the federal government to continue the AHF, Mr. Ningeongan said these words, and they speak for themselves:
|| Mr. Speaker, to terminate the Aboriginal Healing Funding now would defeat the whole purpose of the apology that our Prime Minister made on behalf of Government of Canada. The federal government must recognize that healing takes time, recovery does not happen overnight.
In B.C. I know very fully that the B.C. Indian chiefs have also said the same thing. About 134 communities that depend on this fund that will have nothing as of tomorrow.
The irony of this, though, is that the Liberal government issued a statement of regret in 1998 and followed it up with $350 million. The Conservative Prime Minister in June felt regret was not enough, so he made a long statement of apology and then he removed money from the table instead.
I want to read what the Prime Minister had to say and let members hear the irony of it all. I quote the Prime Minister in June 2008, when he said:
|| The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian Residential Schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal culture, heritage and language...by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of helpless children, and their separation from powerless families and communities.
|| The legacy of Indian Residential Schools has contributed to social problems that continue to exist in many communities today.
That was two years ago. I do not believe that those problems suddenly disappeared in two years. The Prime Minister promised:
|| You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey.
We do not join people by taking away the tools that they need to help themselves.
I do not believe the Prime Minister did not mean those words when he said them, but in order for words to have credibility. They have to be followed with concrete action. It is cruel to give hope with fine words and then pull that hope away by removing the means for realization of that hope. I may be cynical, but it seems to be to be typical of the government, that it says and does what looks good, that the optics are important, but it does nothing to achieve the objective.
We have come full circle. I have listened to the minister say that everyone wants the best for aboriginal people. The aboriginal people want what is best for them. We are no longer handing them something. This colonialization has got to stop, and inherent in those words is that full circle of “We know what is best for you”. Comparing the aboriginal healing fund to other programs that are non-aboriginal in nature also does not show he understands. The very ability of aboriginal people to heal means that they must be empowered, they must be given the right to heal themselves. They must let us know we can no longer think that we can tell them what is best for them and let them take charge of their own healing.
In order to bring back pride, culture and empowerment to aboriginal people, this is an absolute necessity, to bring back the aboriginal healing fund.
Mr. Marc Lemay (Abitibi—Témiscamingue, BQ):
Madam Speaker, I would be very happy if this debate could rise above the issue of whether funding should be cut or reinstated or whether this funding will be replaced by another program. I believe that that is not the issue.
Should the Aboriginal Healing Foundation continue to exist for a time in order to help the aboriginal peoples, the aboriginal communities, the individuals and the families affected by everything that happened in the residential schools?
I say that it should, and so do my Bloc Québécois colleagues.
I will try to explain the importance of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to the minister and the people who are watching by giving a very specific example.
Near Amos, there is a small town named Saint-Marc-de-Figuery. An Indian residential school was set up there in the 1950s and remained open until 1963 or 1964 or maybe even a little later.
In the fall, all the Algonquins who could be found along Lake Abitibi or the railway were brought by force to the Indian residential school in Saint-Marc-de-Figuery. Terrible things went on in this school and probably in many other Indian residential schools. The government acknowledged that there had been abuses and put in place a system to help communities and individuals deal with what they had gone through.
The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, is a true visionary. He said this nearly three months ago:
|| As we look forward we must also remember our history, and this is especially true of residential schools survivors. The resources in this do not specifically reference the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. This concerns us because the Foundation delivers critical programming to help survivors right at the community level. [Every word is important.] This work is needed now because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is underway and survivors will be telling their often-times painful stories.
There is no better way to express the importance of preserving and renewing the funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which does a remarkable job.
I am going to explain what happened. The consequences of the forced assimilation policy, and I do say forced, of the Indian residential school scheme continue to burden the aboriginal people even today.
Many people who were in the residential schools did not have the opportunity to develop parenting skills. They had to fight against the elimination of their identity as aboriginal people, and against the disappearance of their language and culture.
Even today, generations of aboriginal people remember the trauma they suffered, the neglect, the shame and they poverty they were victims of. Thousands of former students have publicly disclosed that physical, emotional and sexual violence was endemic in the system, and that little effort was made to stem it, to punish the people committing the abuse, or to improve conditions.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation operates, and I hope it continues to operate, in a culturally and politically complex environment, often finding itself embroiled in controversy. That being said, the foundation itself is an apolitical entity that is concerned only with healing, and it maintains excellent relations with aboriginal political organizations, aboriginal people, the government, the churches and the Canadian public in general. The foundation is considered to be a very successful experiment, a model to follow.
That is why we, as parliamentarians, must absolutely speak out against the risk, if it were only the risk, that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation will disappear. It has to continue to operate and to work with aboriginal people and communities. I have had it explained to me that near Amos, an aboriginal community called Pikogan, and I apologize for saying it so bluntly, scraped up the pieces of the survivors of the Saint-Marc Indian residential school near Amos. These are people who suffered severe trauma. In recent years, they have started to set up an Aboriginal Healing Foundation in the community of Pikogan. For the Algonquins of Pikogan, Lac-Simon, Kitcisakik and Winneway, of Notre-Dame-du-Nord—I could name them all—it is extremely important that this Aboriginal Healing Foundation continue. I do not want to limit my comments to the Algonquins, but those are the communities I know in my riding.
We have to go back a ways into the past, but it was the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples that produced the famous Erasmus-Dussault report, which prompted the government to set up the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. It was created in 1998. I do not want to go over that again, it has been discussed at least three times in recent speeches in the House. But it must be understood that the reason why a need to create an Aboriginal Healing Foundation was perceived was that the job was going to take a very long time.
People do not recover from the trauma suffered in the Indian residential schools from one day to the next. Whether named Kistabish, McDougall or Blacksmith, these people have passed on the problems they experienced from father to son, from mother to daughter.
At the residential school of Saint-Marc-de-Figuery near Amos, the first thing they did was to cut the hair of the aboriginals brought there to be educated. If the residential schools were not reform schools, I do not know how else to describe them. There were all kinds of abuses. This mistreatment left wounds that take a very long time to close. They will never heal completely.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation works in the various communities, which is very important. This evening, I heard that individual therapies are available as well as competent personnel—I am very sure of that—to provide individual assistance to the people marked by these experiences.
Who will take care of the community when people start to relive everything that happened? As National Chief Atleo said, “This work is needed now because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is underway and survivors will be telling their often-times painful stories.”
The government had difficulty establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I say that with respect because I can understand the reasons. I have been sensitized to the problem. Still, the commission is just beginning its work. It will go to a number of communities to meet people and try to understand what happened then and what is happening now.