Question Period: COVID-19 Pandemic—Mental Health

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa

Hon. Jane Cordy: Thank you very much, Senator Gold, for the update. We know this pandemic has presented a difficult time for all Canadians, but we know there’s a disparity between those mental health supports available to Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. Nothing is super in terms of mental health for anybody, but it’s particularly hitting the Indigenous communities. Access to culturally sensitive mental health services within Indigenous communities has obviously been impacted due to the pandemic, especially for those who are living in remote communities with limited connectivity. That’s why I was pleased to hear last month of the government’s commitment to the $82.5 million for Indigenous mental health support during COVID-19.

Senator Gold, can you provide us with more information? I know it’s early stages now, but we need more information on how those funds will be used, because these communities don’t need more studies. They don’t need more policy papers. They need tangible action. I’m also wondering, will the Indigenous communities be consulted about the best way to meet their mental health support needs?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you again for your question. My understanding is that the approach of this government to these and other issues with Indigenous communities is, in fact, to work in partnership and consultation. That is a general answer to your specific question, but I think that is the intent and goal and modus operandi of this government, to the fullest extent possible. It takes seriously the problems and challenges of Canadians’ mental health, and the particular problems which you noted within Indigenous communities.

In this regard, this government has built on the previous government’s investments into mental health research and programs. To cite just one example, Budget 2017 committed over $825 million over five years for Indigenous health services, and that included $118 million over five years to improve mental health programming specifically for Inuit and First Nations. The government is committed to continuing to work with its partners to prevent suicide, promote wellness and to address the ongoing challenge that the communities are facing.

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