We call upon the federal government to provide sustainable funding for existing and new Aboriginal healing centres to address the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harms caused by residential schools, and to ensure that the funding of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is a priority

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusJan. 10, 2022IN PROGRESS
Previous StatusDec. 5, 2021IN PROGRESS

Why “In Progress?”

Beginning with Budget 2016 and through Budgets 2017 and 2018, the Federal government has committed over $350M to support various initiatives to address C2A # 21 including a focus on culturally sensitive healing services in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Response does not directly address funding “Aboriginal Healing Centres” but focuses instead on what program areas the budget allocations will be focused on:

  • mental wellness promotion
  • services for former Indian Residential School students and their families
  • substance use and suicide prevention
  • crisis response services, treatment and aftercare in First Nations and Inuit communities. 
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation

In the 2010 Federal Budget under Stephen Harper, the government decided not to renew funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. The organization had to terminate partnership with over 120 community services that aid large populations of Aboriginal peoples who have suffered through traumas from the Indian Residential School System.

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) was an Ottawa-based national, non-profit corporation established in 1998 with a $350 million fund to support community-based healing initiatives that address the intergenerational legacy of physical and sexual abuse suffered in Canada’s Indian residential School System. Since 1998 the AHF has provided over 1,300 grants to First Nations, Inuit and Métis projects — in urban, rural and isolated communities — across the country.

The 2010 budget concluded that $199 million would be directed towards Health Canada to continue to assist former students and their families who have experienced abuse in the Residential School System. But Aboriginal leaders assert that those programs are not as effective or unique in their purposes such as that of the AHF.

Implications and Consequences

  • Democracy: While other healing initiatives exist, those who have experienced abuse or discrimination in the Indian Residential School System will no longer have access to treatment for past abuses through a foundation as comprehensive and unique as the AHF. This results in the undermining of resources for Aboriginal peoples and of the democratic commitments of successive Canadian governments, especially in light of the Prime Minister’s apology and the Truth and Reconciliation Program.
  • Equality: Aboriginal groups across Canada will have lost an important source of funding for the harm done by the Indian Residential Schools. It will have an impact on particular health and support services developed by and delivered by Aboriginal peoples.
  • Freedom of Speech: The termination of funding for AHF programs undercuts voices of the Aboriginal community that have shared their stories of abuse with healing centres and community groups for years. Most of these services will no longer be available and the unique opportunity for survivors to speak up will be lost. 
Investments in Indigenous Healing Centres in Provinces and Territories

British Columbia

May 17, 2018 – The Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia and the First Nations Health Council (FNHC) will establish a new approach for federal and provincial investment in mental health and wellness services. This new funding approach will allow First Nations to plan, design and deliver a continuum of community-based mental health and wellness services based on their health plans and priorities. Through this new approach, the partners aim to simplify the process for First Nations to access funding for mental health and wellness services by pooling federal and provincial funding and establishing new and more flexible funding arrangements that focus on outcomes. The partners are committed to facilitating greater cross-government collaboration to enhance the coordination of mental health and wellness services accessed by First Nation children, youth and families in BC. 

The Governments of Canada, BC and First Nations Health Authority are contributing $10M each.

May 24, 2019 – The Province and First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) are contributing $20 million each to build two new urban treatment centres and repair and renovate others. These centres support access for First Nations people to mental health, wellness and substance use services. First Nations-led treatment services have Elders and traditional healers directly involved in patient care alongside doctors, nurses and addictions specialists. The new and updated centres will feature increased and much-needed programs for women and two-spirited people.


Oct. 2, 2018 – Indigenous Health Transformation Roadmap 2018-2020 released by The Population, Public and Indigenous Health Strategic Clinical Network through Alberta Health Services states: Ensure effective, accessible and comprehensive primary health care delivery with First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities across Alberta


Aug. 29, 2019 – From the Infrastructure Canada to build the new Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre in Kuujjuaq in addition to the $6-million contribution by federal Indigenous Services last year. Other funding has come from Isuarsivik’s own fundraising efforts, as well as the Government of Quebec, Makivik Corp. and the Kativik Regional Government. The total investment required $40.5 million to build the new centre. (Nunatsiaq News)

Oct. 9, 2019 – Announcement of construction of a new Eeyou-Eenou Regional Health Centre in Chisasibi. The new $300M, 20,000 m2 facility will combine a 52-bed hospital for the population of Eeyou Istchee (approximately 20,000), and a Community Miyupimaatisiiun Centre (CMC), offering front-line services and community health for the local population of Chisasibi. The new Regional Health Centre is scheduled for completion by 2025 with funding by the Quebec government. This new facility will replace an outdated hospital open since 1980, and community health services that are now housed in trailers.

The current hospital has no surgical capacity and very limited space to serve a growing community of 5,000 people in Chisasibi, as well as the other Cree communities that rely on Chisasibi for hospital services. The new Eeyou-Eenou Regional Health Centre will be equipped with state of the art medical, telemedecine and diagnostic technologies to serve the population in the region. The nearest hospital centre is almost 1000 km away, in Val-d’Or, making Chisasibi an important regional hub for medical services.

March 24, 2021 – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) along with Cree Nation Tribal Health (CNTH), Swampy Cree Tribal Council jointly release an urgent call to the Province for immediate funding the Northern Healing Lodge: a much-needed addictions treatment and recovery centre that would be used for all citizens in the region. The Northern Healing Lodge was set to be a place of healing, based in the wholistic person-centred approaches relative to First Nations historic cultural competencies in a land-based setting…The natural, forested setting would allow participants to embrace the healing powers of nature as they reconnect with traditional ways to heal. At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Manitoba, the entire twenty-million-dollar, 50 bed project ground to a halt. To date, the project is stalled at the completion of Phase 1 and remains with the Province to keep momentum going at this critical time.


Sept. 8, 2021: Nunatsiaq News – The health centre in Kinngait opened at the beginning of August and around 40 people came through each day during its first week. The building features a mental health unit, eight clinician rooms, and a dentistry. The building was made with Inuit traditional knowledge in mind, said Kinngait Mayor Timoon Toonoo, in front of about 50 community members at the community hall.

Sanikiluaq also received a new health centre this year, and Nunavut Health Minister Lorne Kusugak says Nunavummiut will be able to expect to eventually see this level of health care across the territory.

Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

Through a combination of new Budget 2016 and Budget 2017 investments, over $350 million has been provided to support:

  • mental wellness promotion
  • services for former Indian Residential School students and their families
  • substance use and suicide prevention
  • crisis response services, treatment and aftercare in First Nations and Inuit communities

The Government of Canada also continues to work closely with the Government of the Northwest Territories to explore opportunities to support healing in a way that complements existing services and is sensitive to the Indigenous cultures in the territory.

Together with contributions from the Government of Nunavut and Inuit partners, as part of Budget 2019, the Government of Canada announced its commitment to support the construction and ongoing operation of a treatment facility in Nunavut.

Subsequently, on August 19, 2019, Indigenous Services Canada announced, in partnership with the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, that a new Nunavut Recovery Centre will be developed. The Nunavut Recovery Centre will provide a range of treatment and healing interventions that will address both addictions and trauma, and will be founded on Inuit cultural practices and values.