Head of defunct Aboriginal Healing Foundation laments loss of mental-health programs
Published Wednesday, April 13, 2016 7:32PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 13, 2016 7:34PM EDT
The man who used to run the Aboriginal Healing Foundation before it was shut down by the Conservative government in 2014 says it should be revived to help communities like Attawapiskat.
Mike DeGagne is the former executive director of the foundation, which was an aboriginal-managed, not-for-profit, private corporation.
The foundation was first set up as a response to the effects of residential schools on Canada’s indigenous population, but later dealt with “broader issues of mental health and healing in the community.”
It funded healing and mental health projects for aboriginal communities across the country. A list of those projects can still be found online here.
But the self-sustaining foundation was shut down by the Harper government on Sept. 30, 2014. DeGagne, now president of Nipissing University, says what is “most sad” about the closure was the loss of infrastructure.
“Not just the infrastructure of the foundation to give grants and to give support for healing, but all of those community projects, and we funded some 1,500 community projects over 17 years,” DeGagne said, adding all the initiatives were then “gone.”
DeGagne said the organization allowed First Nations communities to determine what areas they needed help with. He hasn’t seen anything like it since.
“One of the best outcomes from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation was the training and education of hundreds and hundreds of aboriginal people to work in the mental health and healing field,” DeGagne said.
Now, as Attawapiskat deals with a mental health crisis, DeGagne says the need for the defunct-organization is evident in that community.
“Just the very notion that we may have been able to do some good and help, especially for the kids that are there today, does give you pause,” DeGagne said.
While DeGagne feels the Harper government’s decision was short-sighted, he hopes that the Trudeau government will use the research conducted by the foundation to work with Attawapiskat to find a permanent solution to the community’s troubles.
With files from CTV Northern Ontario