CACAP Statement on Indigenous Mental Health & History of Residential Schools

Authored by the CACAP Advocacy Committee (Drs. J. Guzder, C. Wilkes, A. Gajaria, P. Anang, L. Katz, and R. Rasasingham)

In recognition of the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, CACAP joins in keeping with an active process of reconciliation between Canadian institutions and Indigenous People calling for increased awareness of colonization, racism and Indigenous genocide and the impact it has on the mental health and well-being of Indigenous children, youth, and families in Canada.

The Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (CACAP) stands in solidarity with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada in the deep sorrow evoked by the finding of 215 children’s bodies at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. This event is tragic, but not surprising as Indigenous communities and advocates have been highlighting the horrors and inequities facing Indigenous children in Canada for many years. We voice our commitment to undertake a review of the role as child psychiatrists as this relates to the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada published in 2015.  In so doing, we join with our colleagues in primary care and mental health, and with the institutions that serve Indigenous children and families, and the Indigenous nations of Canada where the wounds of genocide continue to undermine wellbeing.

CACAP in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) actively support the Rights of Indigenous Children to Healthy Development, Care and Public Mental Health Services for Families. 

In addition, CACAP bears witness to the impact of the COVID pandemic on the structural violence that has increased risk for child and youth substance abuse as well as familial and domestic distress and abuse. Structural violence and racism further emphasize the urgency of our commitment to actively advocate in collective approaches to healing and solutions co-constructed with Indigenous peoples.  A healing narrative with other agencies and institutions also needs to address current depleted child mental health resources for Indigenous families in Canada. 

Finally, CACAP will dedicate more of our energies as physicians and trainers, researchers and advocates to expanding our historical understanding of Colonization of all Indigenous peoples of Canada. As an organization, we will strive to build better relationships with Urban and Rural Remote Indigenous communities.