Tk’emlups te Secwepemc is receiving $12.5 million from the federal government to construct a healing centre, which officials say will provide culturally safe mental health and wellness supports.
The healing centre is one of three asks TteS put forward to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised to support the projects.
The funding was announced on Thursday at Moccasin Square Gardens.
Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir said it was “truly a monumental day” for Tk'emlups members and survivors of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“This announcement of a healing house will provide a culturally safe and relevant support along with the capacity to contribute to the current and future well being of our people who've been impacted,” she said.
Casimir said the funds will flow through the First Nations Health Authority, who will work together with TteS to implement the project.
“This is supporting our survivors. This is supporting our intergenerational survivors, these resources are going to be there to create that forward thinking, holistic approach of a healthier, future generation,” she said.
Casimir was joined by Patty Hadju, minister of Indigenous Services, Colleen Erickson, First Nations Health Authority board chair, former Tk'emlups Kukpi7 Fred Seymour and former councillor Jeanette Jules to make the announcement.
Casimir said planning for a healing centre has involved collaboration and dialogue which has considered the unique healing needs of residential school survivors.
She said the space will be designed to be welcoming, safe and non-colonial, honouring traditional culture and history, with an architecture firm working with the band to develop a design incorporating Secwepemc values.
Casimir didn’t say exactly where the centre would be located, but noted it will be in a “safe place that has been identified that is going to be away from the residential school.”
She said updates around plans, groundbreaking and construction will be forthcoming.
Erickson said the centre will offer culturally-based trauma services, traditional healing practices and Western trauma-specific therapies to provide a continuum of mental health and wellness care.
Casimir noted this funding follows a commitment made by Trudeau during his visits to Tk'emlups.
“He made a commitment to support meaningful steps towards reconciliation, ensuring that we have the support and the resources needed for those that have been impacted by the Indian residential school system,” she said.
“As we move forward, in truth and reconciliation, we are grateful for those positive steps that will make a difference.”
Another $1.5 million in federal government funds are being earmarked for a project that will assess possible renovations and upgrades to the buildings which housed the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
In an emotional speech, Hajdu thanked the band for sharing the ceremony and emphasized the importance of acknowledging Canada’s colonial history and the harm done to Indigenous people.
“The residential schools were designed entirely to remove people from community, to remove people from language, culture, love, and the opportunity to grow,” she said.
Hajdu noted the trauma that people experienced in these schools have been passed down through generations, and said this is what a healing centre can help address.
“We in a western way talk about treatment in terms of getting better from substance use or getting better from mental health issues. In fact, all treatment is about getting better from the experience of trauma,” she said.
“Treatment for me, in the context of a healing centre, is about healing from the historical and ongoing experience of colonization.”