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Wa-Say Healing Centre

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum: Honourable senators, I give this statement on behalf of Wayne Mason, Executive Director of Wa-Say Healing Centre Inc. in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This organization helps Indian residential school survivors and their families to overcome the effects and trauma of the Indian residential school era.

Wa-Say Healing Centre has a long history of providing support and assistance to the survivors of the IRS era and their families. Since the beginning, they have supported thousands in healing from the effects of the cultural genocide that was inflicted upon those who attended these schools where the intent was to “kill the Indian in the child.” Numerous reports have documented the violence that has occurred throughout Canada’s history towards Indigenous people, including the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the MMIWG Final Report. Indian residential school survivors and families of loved ones who have passed on have identified a pathway that supports the rights and self-determination of nations to provide the space to heal according to their own protocols, including reconnecting to their cultural practices and identities that were disrupted as a result of colonization.

As a centre, they have been assisting IRS and day school survivors before, during and after their application for compensation, and are now providing aftercare with one-on-one counselling and trauma therapy sessions. One of the most important services is providing ceremonies with the guidance and direction of elders, which helps our people recover and reconnect to their culture and address the intergenerational effects of cultural genocide. An increasing number of people are going to ceremony to find their names, colours and clans, which are all a part of reclaiming their identity and healing. When our people who are hurting and suffering can heal and become well again, this eliminates the negative statistics that are often used to represent Indigenous people.

As Wa-Say says, it is no longer necessary for government to paternalistically dictate how we heal from the attempted assimilation of our people. First Nations have the capacity to capably administer and manage our own programs. We are a nation and we will be self-sufficient.

Wa-Say hopes the federal government will provide long-term funding for First Nations healing centres to sustain their healing pathway. Our collective healing journey can be achieved if they have adequate financial resources to meet the needs of our people who are recovering from the effects of intergenerational trauma. Our ceremonies are about life, and Wa-Say has created a space for people to reconnect to those original teachings of love. Through ceremonies, we teach our people how to live again, and to live life in a good way. Thank you.

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