Ministerial Question Period: Mental Health Services

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Welcome to the Senate of Canada, Minister Hajdu.

Addictions and suicide are serious concerns, especially amongst Indigenous communities. In your mandate letter from the Prime Minister, you were asked to:

. . . co-develop and invest in a distinctions based Mental Health and Wellness Strategy . . . including culturally appropriate . . . services for addictions and trauma, suicide and life promotion . . . .

Where are we now on this pressing and urgent goal?

Hon. Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P., Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario: Thank you very much. Just today, I was working with my department on understanding how they are making progress in pulling together the pieces of a distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategy. This is an area that is near and dear to my heart. It is related to my previous work prior to politics. I was really excited about the National Summit on Indigenous Mental Wellness we held several months ago in Toronto which brought together programs and solutions to mental wellness and substance use developed, designed and led by First Nations and Indigenous peoples. That is the way of the future.

We have distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to different Indigenous providers of mental wellness and substance use services. I am interested in increasingly ensuring those are culturally appropriate and designed by Indigenous people. Many people are in dire straits, not only in Indigenous populations, but also throughout the country; we have a crisis of astronomical proportions around opioid use, for example. Imposing western-based solutions, and healing solutions in particular, on Indigenous people is not working — I would hazard a guess that it has never worked — and I am excited about the movement that’s happening led by Indigenous health care professionals and mental health specialists that is about designing culturally appropriate care.

Finally, let me just say that programs like Choose Life, developed by Nishnawbe Aski Nation, are showing great promise in reducing suicide and promoting life, which, as the people in that program will tell you, is the preferred way to talk about this. It’s even about language when we talk about suicide prevention.

The Hon. the Speaker: Minister, I’m sorry, but your time has expired.

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