AFN Annual Report

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					       Special Update on Indian Residential Schools Mental Health Supports


In accordance with resolution # 59/2008 from the Chiefs-in-Assembly, the AFN has been
working on advocating for adequate mental health supports for Indian Residential
Schools (IRS) survivors, their families and communities throughout the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission (TRC) processes. This special update provides information
on mental health supports that will be available to survivors, their families and
communities throughout the duration of the upcoming first TRC National Event.

The National Event is being coordinated by the TRC, with mental health support
coordination being overseen by, and in partnership with, Health Canada. The AFN has
put much effort into advising Health Canada on mental health supports to ensure the best
possible supports are provided throughout this process. Given the short time period of the
planning process, coordination of health supports is a challenging task but efforts are
being exhausted by all parties involved to ensure all efforts are made keeping in mind
survivor and participant safety and supports.

In addition to establishing a plan for coordination of health supports onsite at regional
TRC events, there have also been efforts made to advocate for supports to remain
available for communities during the TRC National Event. The AFN is notifying
communities that we are being informed that in order to secure enough supports for
survivor safety onsite at the TRC National Event, there are some IRS support services
that will be reduced for a time period of 7-10 days. It is expected that this shortage will
last only for this period of time and that no other services shall be affected in this time

The AFN is committed to sharing the most recent information on this process with
communities. As a result, as information may become available on this important issue
further updates will be posted on the AFN website.

TRC National Event & Mental Health Supports

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement mandated the establishment of a
TRC to document and share the truth about what happened in residential schools. The
TRC will accomplish this through relying on records, testimonies and experiences shared
by survivors, their families and anyone affected by residential schools. Within TRC’s
mandate, they are responsible for providing a safe setting for former student, their
families and communities to come forward to the Commission to share their experiences.

The TRC has scheduled the first of seven National Events to take place at the Forks in
Winnipeg, Manitoba during June 16-19, 2010. The event is being planned to provide
survivors and all those affected by residential schools to share, provide statements, and
engage in activities designed to facilitate healing, greater awareness and reconciliation.
The agenda for the event includes statement taking, sharing circles, ceremonies and other
events designed to share information about, and experiences in, residential schools. The
TRC has been working collaboratively with Health Canada on mental health supports to
ensure that the National Event is a safe setting for survivors and families.

The AFN has been working with Health Canada’s Indian Residential School Resolution
Health Supports Program (IRSRHSP) to establish a coordination plan for health supports
at the National Event. The development of the plan was contributed to by several key
experts in mental health and crisis planning, and is designed to be comprehensive in
meeting mental health needs of any participants of the national event. In summary, it
outlines processes for the coordination of health support at the National Events through:
      Establishing processes, training and techniques for how support teams, composed
        of Resolution Health Support Workers (RHSW), Cultural Support Providers
        (CSP) and Therapists, provide comprehensive supports to any participant of the
        National event, in accordance with their preference and needs;
      Identifying higher-risk areas of the event and coordinating increased supports for
        each area;
      Identifying approaches and measures to increase participant awareness of
        available supports;
      Outlines a multi-entry approach for accessing supports onsite; and,

The plan has placed specific emphasis on ensuring that mental health resources and
supports are: respectful of the survivor/participant, culturally competent, available 24
hours a day throughout the event and comprehensive in approach. The AFN is confident
that all efforts possible are being made to ensure survivor safety is paramount in the
preparations for the National Event.

The AFN has been informed that other organizations have produced/are developing
information resources to assist individuals and/or groups in preparing to attend the
National Event. Health Canada has produced an information package on the event posted
below. Links to such information are available at the end of this update.

Community Based Supports

For provision of mental health supports onsite at the TRC National Event, Health Canada
will be utilizing a significant portion of the RHSWs and CSPs currently working within
the IRSRHSP. This will result in reduced availability of the RHSW’s and CSPs to
communities within the time period of June 13-21, 2010 (this time period will fluctuate in
accordance with travel requirements). It is expected that there shall be at approximately
90 RHSWs that will still be available to communities at this time, in addition to CSPs
(AFN has been unable to confirm how many). It has been confirmed by Health Canada’s
Resolutions Health Supports Program that RHSWs and CSPs will be returning to
regions/communities to continue provision of support following the National Event.
AFN is informing communities that media will likely report on some portions of the TRC
proceedings on national news programs. This may impact survivors and/or their families
in varying manners and may result in a requirement of supports.

As a result of the reduced services, the AFN is encouraging communities to increase
awareness on how to access NIHB counseling for your respective area. The AFN has
been informed by Health Canada that NIHB crisis-counseling supports should remain
available at consistent numbers before, during and after the event.

Future TRC National Events & Mental Health Supports

As previously noted, the short timeframe to plan for the first National Event has
presented some challenges in coordination of onsite health supports. In preparation for
following National Events, the AFN intends to continue working in collaboration with
the IRSRHSP to ensure any lessons learned from the first National Event will be used to
prepare for following events.

Health Canada has established a Resolution Health Supports Advisory Committee which
will provide advise on the preparation for National Events. AFN has engaged in this
process and will continue to utilize this committee to assist in preparations for future

In addition, the AFN HSS has been exploring ways to increase community preparedness
within the scope of mental health supports as a result of Settlement Agreement activities.
AFN HSS is currently engaged in developing a strategy which includes seeking funding
to conduct community preparedness through community-based capacity building and
knowledge translation and exchange.

Other Information & Links

For more information on the TRC & National Events:
    Truth and Reconciliation Commission
    TRC National Event

For more information on the Health Canada Resolution Health Supports Program,
including national and regional toll-free support lines:
     Health Canada Resolution Health Supports Program

For more information on Indian Residential Schools, and/or IRS Healing:
    Aboriginal Healing Foundation
    National Residential School Survivors Society
    Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society

For more information on the work AFN is doing in Indian Residential Schools, and/or
IRS Mental Health Supports, please contact us:

Assembly of First Nations
473 Albert Street, Suite 810
Ottawa, Ontario
K1R 5B4

Tel: (613) 241-6789
Toll-free: (613) 869-6789
Fax: (613) 241-5808