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 years.
Dr. Patrick Smith
The Canadian Mental Health Association