In recognition of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation being held on September 30, 2021, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) would like to remind all Canadians and all organizations that we all have a responsibility to work toward reconciliation and a better, more equitable future for all. Everyone needs to understand past and present injustices against Indigenous peoples as a first step in order for things to change.
Similarly, CASP believes that suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility. For 35 years, we have been advocating and educating with respect to suicide prevention in Canada. While each of us as individuals and all of our communities have roles to play in life promotion and suicide prevention, a person’s circumstances can adversely influence their mental health even to the point where they have thoughts of suicide.
A roof over one’s head is life promotion / suicide prevention.
Clean water is life promotion / suicide prevention.
Proper health care is life promotion / suicide prevention.
The absence of any of these in a rich nation such as Canada is hard to believe, yet many Indigenous people still continue to experience deficits in these areas alongside the intergenerational impacts of cultural genocide, colonial violence, and systemic racism. The lack of these basic human rights on top of these grievous wrongs works against the themes of healing and hope which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada emphasized and identified. Healing and hope are critical elements in life promotion and suicide prevention.
CASP continues to call upon the Government of Canada to act on their pledge to make things right with the Indigenous communities across the country, ensuring the basic human rights of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples are met.
With the recovery of children’s bodies at multiple former residential schools, CASP shares in the sadness being felt across the land. CASP supports every effort towards life promotion so that residential school survivors, their families, their friends and all those who remember, can heal. We urge the Canadian government to respond to these tragedies to ensure healing, justice, and remembrance of lives lost is served in a fitting way. Further, we urge all levels of government to fully implement Jordan’s Principle – a rule that pledges to provide Indigenous children with the services they need, when they need them, rather than first taking the time to sort out which level of government is responsible for the cost.
Senator Murray Sinclair, Dr. Ed Connors (First Peoples Wellness Circle and Feather Carriers for Life Promotion) and many others, refer to their Elders who brought forward four life path questions to reawaken and support people through life, at any life path stage. These questions of “Where do I come from? Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?” align with life promotion’s central elements of hope, purpose, belonging, and meaning.
The frameworks of healing, hope and reconciliation all start with truth. Then, centred in truth, reconciliation invites us to learn and value Indigenous approaches and perspectives. Reconciliation also represents healing together, establishing new relationships with one another, and working together to break patterns of isolation, marginalization and oppression. Conversations and self-education are just a few things to start, as reconciliation will be, and is, a continuous process. In doing so, we can create the space for hope, to share, to learn and to grow from our past in order to establish an equitable and bountiful future that recognizes the many histories, languages and cultures that continue to influence a vibrant Canada.
At CASP, we embrace and value the Indigenous peoples of this land and believe we are stronger together. May we take time to remember and reflect on this first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with a pledge to do more and continue these conversations.
For those experiencing pain or distress as a result of their Residential school experience, the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day: 1-866-925-4419. Alternatively, Crisis Services Canada can be reached 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566 if you or someone else is in distress.