AFN National Chief Bellegarde Welcomes Mental Health Investments

Chief Perry Bellegarde
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

OTTAWA – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde is welcoming the immediate investments in mental wellness for First Nations announced this week by the Government of Canada.

“I lift up our NAN First Nations Youth, Ontario First Nations political leaders and all those who have worked hard and raised their voices to achieve these commitments, which are urgently needed,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “Yesterday, I met with a number of young people who are dealing directly with these crises in their communities. They are putting forward practical ideas and initiatives that warrant action. I am hopeful that the new measures announced today will make a difference, and will ultimately lead to a national approach directed by First Nations to address the multiple systemic factors that have brought about these health crises.”

The Government of Canada announced today that it will provide new funding of approximately $69 million over three years which will support immediate measures to support to Indigenous communities in Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut. The government also announced that it will work alongside Indigenous leaders in the context of the Health Accord to develop a long-term plan to address these important health issues.

“As Chair of the AFN Chiefs Committee on Health, this funding is a very significant step forward in terms of suicide prevention and life promotion for our youth,” said Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day. “However, I must point out that at least twice as many mental health teams are needed in our communities right now, nation-wide. Last Thursday, I told the House of Commons Committee that a minimum of $136 million annually is needed now to address a wide range of mental health issues, from drug and alcohol addictions to continued support for Residential School survivors.  This national crisis will not be solved with half measures.  We also need full provincial and territorial involvement in order to implement strategies that will restore hope for far too many youth and elders who believe ending their lives is the only escape from despair.”

This new funding from the Government of Canada will support a number of measures, including:

  • Four crisis response teams in regions located in Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut identified as having the greatest need;
  • An increase of mental wellness teams from 11 to 43 for communities most at-risk;
  • Training for existing community-based workers, and
  • The establishment of a 24-hour culturally safe crisis response line.