Statement from Dr. Margo Greenwood and Dr. Michael J. Strong: CIHR recognizes the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The residential school system is a topic that can cause trauma invoked by memories of past abuse. Messages around the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation can be an unwelcome reminder to those who have suffered hardships through generations of government policies that were harmful to Indigenous Peoples.

A 24-hour support line at 1-866-925-4419 provides crisis referral services to Survivors and their families and explains how to obtain other health supports from the Government of Canada.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis seeking immediate emotional support can contact the Hope for Wellness Help Line toll-free at 1-855-242-3310, or by online chat on the Hope for Wellness Helpline website.

September 30 marks the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, on which we honour the Survivors of Canada's Indian Residential School System, as well as those First Nations, Inuit and Métis children who never returned home. This is a day of reflection and remembrance for all these children, their families and communities. It is also a time to strengthen our relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.

The federal government's role in these schools is a chapter of Canadian history that cannot be ignored. Indian Residential Schools opened in the 1830s and continued until the closure of the final school in 1996. More than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children attended these schools often located far from their homes. Canadians of all backgrounds are increasingly recognizing the physical, emotional and sexual abuse that children experienced in residential schools. We are growing in our understanding of the ongoing and harmful effects of the schools' efforts to assimilate First Nations, Inuit and Métis children. These actions were and are a direct assault on the heart of the Nations. As non-Indigenous Canadians continue to learn about the oppression and realities of life that children experienced in residential schools, we must be unwavering in our pursuit of reconciliation.

Actions by the federal government toward truth and reconciliation involve acknowledging its role in these schools. Notable efforts include the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement of 2007 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report in 2015. These initiatives, including endeavours by CIHR, must be ongoing.

As a funding body for the advancement of health research, CIHR has a unique role to play to advance reconciliation. For too long, Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing have been undervalued, and First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples' potential contributions to health have been ignored. CIHR is actively seeking ways to create space for funding opportunities that are informed and enriched by Indigenous knowledges.

To this end, CIHR is supporting several projects directly related to Truth and Reconciliation, including research on culturally-based trauma healing, maternal health equity, Indigenous midwifery and child-rearing practices, and cultural continuity. We recognize the hard work of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples who have modelled ways in which we can decolonize our work at CIHR.

Alongside of these organizational efforts, CIHR and the Institute of Indigenous Peoples' Health (IIPH) carries a mandate to support First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities and students in their aspirations for healthcare research. Through IIPH and our Strategic Plan, CIHR shows its commitment to improving the health and well-being of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples and to advancing the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples. This is best achieved through honouring and privileging the shared knowledges of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples and researchers of all backgrounds.

We encourage you to join us on this journey of deepening our understanding of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples' histories, rights and impact on health research on this day of Truth and Reconciliation. Today, we acknowledge the failure of the residential school system to suppress Indigenous knowledges and cultures. In the face of indescribable adversity, First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples have protected and fostered their wisdoms, teachings, language and traditions. As such, Canada is a better place for it.

Privileging Indigenous knowledges in health research is critical to our work at CIHR as we aim to create a more sustainable and equitable health system for everyone. While we look forward to the future, we must remember the past, even at its darkest. We raise our hands to those Survivors who have gone before us and to those whose stories are being told.

If you, or someone you know is experiencing signs of distress don't hesitate to reach out to services available 24/7/365:

Hope for Wellness Help Line (Indigenous centred): 1-855-242-3310

Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (for anyone experiencing pain/distress because of their residential school experience): 1-800-721-0066

Crisis Services Canada: (Canada-wide) 1-833-456-4566

Miigwetch, Marci, Nakummek, Merci, Thank you

Margo Greenwood, O.C., PhD
Interim Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Indigenous Peoples' Health

Michael J. Strong, MD, FRCPC, FAAN, FCAHS
President, CIHR

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