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National Indigenous People’s Day: An Open Letter From CMHA

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June 21 of every year marks an opportunity in Canada to recognize the contributions that First
Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples have made to Canada. And these contributions continue to be
significant and increasing across all sectors and aspects of our national identity and history. We
owe a debt of gratitude to the First Peoples of Canada. We are all the recipients of the work of
Indigenous Peoples who have been the original trustees of Turtle Island, the land that we call
Canada today.

National Indigenous Peoples Day also invites all of us to make an individual, organizational, and
community commitment to further our conversations, and take action to correct the harm caused
by the impacts of colonization and the difficult issues that we have imposed onto Indigenous
Peoples of Canada. We must come to terms with the negative and lasting impacts of policies
and practices that have traumatized individuals and families, and fragmented and eroded
families and entire communities and nations. Awareness and understanding of the truth about
our past is just the beginning. We must engage in commitments, relationships, and actions that
correct this harm and heal the hurt. We are obliged to own our history and reconcile our
relationships so as to contribute to the restoration of societies, communities, and individuals
who were complete and whole before contact and forced assimilation with them. It is to the
pressing matter of truth and reconciliation that I speak to each of you in this communication.
As a federated, national organization that is celebrating one hundred years of existence and
service to Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is deeply committed to
continuing and increasing our awareness and response to truth and reconciliation. We
recognize the need to reflect and analyze how we, as an organization, may have been silent at
times about the harm and damage that has been caused to the mental well-being of individuals,
their families, and communities who were through policy ravaged by poverty, racism, and
ignorance. We watched as children, youth, and adults went through the horrors of residential
schools, child welfare apprehension, imposed segregation and lack of meaningful investment
and support. We can only imagine how much stronger we would be as a nation if Indigenous
knowledge and practice had not been interrupted.

We are also authentically committed to learning, sharing our resources and skills, and building
new relationships that will guide all of us to a better and stronger tomorrow as a nation. We
recognize the resilience of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples and the power of their
knowledge. We must create spaces where this knowledge, experience, and these skills, in
collaboration with the capacity and commitment of CMHA, can create and innovate, while
restoring and recognizing living and historical Indigenous knowledge and wisdom.
This letter is a call for all of us who work in the field of mental health and wellness to join forces
and stand shoulder to shoulder with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada as we design strategies,
create meaningful dialogue, and take actions that will be celebrated throughout our next 100

Dr. Patrick Smith
National CEO
The Canadian Mental Health Association

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