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Glen Abernethy: On-the-Land Programming

Mr. Speaker, as we have been hearing in this Assembly recently, on-the-land healing programs are critical to achieving our goal of healthy, educated people free from poverty. That discussion echoes recommendations previously made by the Minister’s Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness.

The Department of Health and Social Services recognizes the importance of spiritual and cultural healing and has made on-the-land programming a key component of the continuum of care and treatment of addictions. We are working with Aboriginal governments to deliver on-the-land programs as part of Territorial addictions services. These programs are designed and developed by communities to meet their needs, whether that is aftercare, youth programming, or dedicated time for families to heal together.

In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, three very different pilot projects took place in the Tlicho, Inuvialuit, and Akaitcho regions. These three projects helped us work with partners to determine the most effective approaches to on-the-land healing and common factors for success.

All three Aboriginal governments have indicated that community response to these initial pilot projects was very positive, and there was great interest in knowing when the next program might be offered.

This success reinforces our commitment to continued investment and ongoing evaluation of on-the-land programs. Aboriginal governments are essential partners in this effort, and we are working collaboratively to meet the needs of all residents. Aboriginal governments are using the funding, and the additional resources and expertise available through the Department, to deliver programs unique to their regions.

I’d like to highlight some of those programs for Members today:

The Tlicho Community Services Agency held on-the-land programs for Tlicho residents in the summer of 2014, and is planning a session centered around traditional knowledge and aftercare for the winter of 2015.

Building on successful pilot projects last summer, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is offering five additional wellness camps to residents of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, at Reindeer Station and the Gwich’in Campground.

The Gwich’in Tribal Council will provide a five-day on-the-land program for the four Gwich’in Settlement communities: Aklavik, Inuvik, Tsiigehtchic, and Fort McPherson.

The Sahtu Dene Council will offer two 10-day camps near Délîne for families from across the region.

The Akaitcho Territory Government will support community-based on-the-land addictions programs delivered by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, the Deninu Kue First Nation, and the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation.

Plans for the Dehcho have not yet been finalized, but we continue to work with them to determine the best approach for their region.

Mr. Speaker, this is an exciting approach to treatment and healing, and demonstrates this Government’s commitment to providing residents with innovative mental health and addictions services that support them on their path to wellness.

We are off to a good start, but we know that the demand for on-the-land programs far exceeds what we can provide alone. The Department is working closely with other Departments, Aboriginal governments, and our partners in the philanthropic sector, to explore the potential for a Funder Collaborative that will allow communities and Aboriginal governments to tap into other funding sources.

It is the hope and expectation of all partners in these initiatives that their work will lay the groundwork for expanded on-the-land healing opportunities across the Northwest Territories in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.