Critics slam chronic underfunding of Indigenous healing lodges in Canada

Indigenous healing lodges face chronic underfunding across Canada, critics say

“Deep in the heart of the Waseskun Healing Centre near Montreal, Indigenous men come together every morning for a sacred healing circle. Here, they share stories, smudge, and seek spiritual guidance from elders like Grégoire Canapé, a member of the Midewiwin Society. This centre, often likened to a minimum-security prison, is a place where residents are given the opportunity to heal from past traumas and confront the crimes that led them there.

Building Roots of Healing at Waseskun

As the sun rises on an early-spring morning, the sounds of drumming and prayer fill the air at Waseskun. Elder Grégoire Canapé imparts wisdom to the men gathered, using the metaphor of a seed within a apple to illustrate the transformative power of nurturing the broken. Through his teachings, residents learn to see themselves as more than just perpetrators of crime, but as individuals capable of growth and redemption.

Indigenous Healing Centres: A Beacon of Hope

Waseskun is one of ten healing centres funded by Correctional Service Canada for Indigenous offenders in federal custody. Despite their proven success in rehabilitating inmates, these centres are vastly underfunded and often overlooked in the larger conversation of justice reform. The over-incarceration of Indigenous individuals, a crisis that has persisted for decades, continues to plague the Canadian justice system despite the provisions laid out in the Gladue decision of 1999.

A Place of Safety and Cultural Affirmation

For residents like Steven and Larry, the difference between traditional prisons and places like Waseskun is profound. Here, they are surrounded by their own community, where cultural practices and beliefs are honored and respected. The emphasis on healing and spiritual growth creates an environment where individuals feel safe enough to open up and confront their past traumas.

Challenges and Opportunities for Healing Lodges

While the success of healing lodges is undeniable, the disparity in funding between those run by Indigenous communities and those managed by CSC remains a pressing issue. As calls for more healing lodges grow louder, there is a need for a shift in the way these facilities are supported and operated. Investing in Indigenous-led initiatives and empowering communities to take control of their own healing processes is key to addressing the deep-rooted issues of incarceration and over-representation of Indigenous individuals in the prison system.

In the end, healing lodges like Waseskun offer a beacon of hope in a system plagued by disparity and injustice. By nurturing the seeds of growth and transformation within each individual, these centres have the power to not only rehabilitate but to restore dignity and self-worth to those who have been marginalized and neglected by society. As we look to the future, it is imperative that we continue to support and uplift these vital institutions that offer a path to healing and reconciliation for all.”



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