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TRC CTAs 32-36: Mental health and trauma intersects with justice for Indigenous peoples

Day 8 of sharing the 94 Calls to Action (CTAs) from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Calls for Justice - Part 2.

Today’s CTAs deserve significant thought and reflection. We again find items under the category of “Justice” (criminal system) which, taken out of context, may not seem to relate.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Aboriginal healing lodges.

Sexual abuse.

These are important examples of the need to look at justice, equity, diversity and inclusion for Indigenous people with an intersectional lens.

Data shows that the number of Indigenous people in prison is way out of proportion. According to this 2020 CBC article and federal report, “Indigenous people account for roughly 5% of the population in Canada, but…more than 30% of the federal inmate population. Indigenous women now account for 42% of women in federal custody.”

It also says that “…since April 2010 the Indigenous population in prisons has increased by 43.4%. In comparison, the non-Indigenous prison population has declined in that same time period by 13.7%.”

First of all – we must acknowledge that there exists racist stereotypes of Indigenous people as criminals, drunks, drug addicts, etc. Think about the misinformation and stereotypes you’ve heard about Indigenous people in your life – and if we’re being honest, we know what they are. e.g. "They’re lazy. They get a free ride from the government, living on reserves and not paying taxes. They don’t have to work, so they can just drink and do drugs all day."

I hope you know it goes without saying that these are not true, and are part of ongoing colonization and degradation of Indigenous peoples. In taking courses on true Indigenous history and culture, I learned more about so-called “government supports” and how they do, and don’t, work. (For a high-level but free overview, I recommend this course from the University of Alberta.)

But it is true that there are way too many Indigenous people in Canada’s prisons. Too many addicted to drugs or alcohol. Too many who didn’t graduate high school.

And it is NOT because they are naturally criminals, addicts or delinquents.

Why does the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ask that FASD, Aboriginal healing lodges, and abuse, be incorporated into the care and community reintegration for Indigenous prisoners?

Because the way Canada has abused Indigenous people, including residential schools, are direct contributing causes to the addiction, suffering and trauma of Indigenous people today.

Canada’s residential schools didn’t just “kill the Indian in the child”; they killed their identity, mental health, and sense of community. How did we expect these children to cope without any families or support?

Again, I’m NOT implying that all Indigenous people have addiction issues, etc. But for the ones that do – (perhaps as a way of coping of the trauma and intergenerational trauma they’ve experienced) – who is really responsible for that?

The spirit of Truth and Reconciliation makes it clear that we, settlers and descendants of colonists, must take responsibility.

And the Calls to Action make it clear what we can do to begin healing and reparation.

So what action will you commit to today?


Share your stories and comments.

What action can you commit to today?

Add a comment on our Facebook page, join our Facebook group to start a discussion, or contact me to share your story.


Progress Updates

Per this CBC site which reports on progress against the 94 CTAs – here are the updates as of June 10, 2021 on today's CTAs:

#32 – In progress, projects proposed. Bill C-22 was introduced in the House of Commons in February 2021 to repeal some mandatory minimum sentences.

#33 – Not started. In May 2017, federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott announced $3.6 million in federal funding for five projects “aimed at preventing and screening for alcohol use in pregnancy,” according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). But the funding is not new, nor is it an increase.

#34 – In progress, projects proposed. In 2019, Manitoba opened a sentencing court specifically for offenders with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder - Canada's first.

#35 – In progress, projects proposed. One new Aboriginal healing lodge was announced in 2019, bringing the total number of Aboriginal healing lodges across Canada to 10.

#36 – In progress, projects proposed. In June 2017, the federal government fully implemented a program to better link inmates to culturally appropriate services. But the program is not new, it was created by the prior federal government.


Links to resources and charitable organizations:

Indian Residential Schools 24/7 Crisis Line:


Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action:

Progress update on CTAs (by the CBC):

Article and report on Indigenous incarceration rates:

Memorial Register of Children Lost to Residential Schools:

"We Were Children", National Film Board documentary on Residential Schools, conveyed through the eyes of two children who survived. Available from Amazon Prime and NFB in French and English. May also be available through your local library.

Petition for National Day of Mourning:

Indian Residential School Survivors Society:

Orange Shirt Day:


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