Indigenous council plans trauma response program

Murray Still (centre) with knowledge keeper Archdeacon Val Kerr (second from left) and members of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund youth council. Photo: Contributed
Published June 1, 2023

The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) is partnering with a Manitoba mental health organization and other groups in the hope of providing trauma response to people in the province’s northern communities.

ACIP co-chair Canon Murray Still says ACIP is currently exploring funding options for From Trauma to New Life, which has an estimated cost of $190,000 and would involve a number of partners. The first stage would involve trauma response training in Winnipeg with the Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute (CTRI), an organization that provides training and workshops in trauma-informed care, mental health, counselling and violence prevention.

The second stage would involve a pilot project planned for August, in which 30 trained individuals, consisting of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Christians—15 from the south and 15 from the north—would deliver the program to communities in northern Manitoba.

That pilot project “won’t occur until we get funding for it … If no funding comes forward before August, we’ll have to be postponing,” Still says.

The third stage would involve evaluating the pilot project and building up resources through the Anglican Church of Canada to continue the program.

Still told Council of General Synod (CoGS) in March that the program was spurred by the exhaustion of clergy in Northern Indigenous communities that face major ongoing trauma, from youth suicides to addiction to poverty, rooted in the intergenerational trauma of colonialism and the residential school system.

“Many of our clergy are reaching burnout because they’re not paid stipends,” Still said at CoGS. “They don’t have ways to assist and they have to feed their families. There’s lots of challenge for Indigenous peoples, but certainly our clergy… The greatest resource in the north would be [to] find a way we train trainers [in trauma response] and then they would be able to go back into their communities with this rich resource.”

CTRI managing director Nathan Gerbrandt describes the training as “a two-day program that offers an awareness of trauma, understanding certain impacts on thebody—how there’s a historical impact, there’s residential school impact, there’s individual impacts that we inadvertently pass on.” There are also basic “safety strategies” for offering care, attention and healing advice, he added, which could be used within families or by people working “intentionally in our congregation or as helpers, as frontline staff.”

The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund provided an initial $15,000 donation that allowed the first stage of From Trauma to New Life to move ahead.

ACIP has applied for funding from the Canadian Red Cross that Still estimates as between $190,000 and $200,000. Conversations are ongoing with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Assembly of First Nations (AFN), which Still says have both expressed interest but not made any firm commitments of financial support.

“If that [Canadian Red Cross funding] doesn’t come through, then we’re back to square one for that piece of funding,” Still says. “But if we have fruitful conversations with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and perhaps the AFN, we might be able to secure something… If we can find partnership where we’re sharing resources, that’s certainly going to help.


  • Matthew Puddister

    Matthew Puddister is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Puddister worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Puddister has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He also supports General Synod's corporate communications.

    [email protected]

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