From holistic teachings to debunking myths about Canada’s original people, the Creating a New Legacy conference covers a wide range of topics.
More than 300 people are attending the two-day aboriginal mental health and wellness conference at the Victoria Inn.
The goal of the event, according to chair Nellie Kopitz, “is to promote awareness and knowledge of healing initiatives that can mitigate the emotional impact and mental health problems associated with the legacy of the residential school system.”
The intention is to promote mental well-being as both aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities work together to heal.
The event began with an opening prayer and drumming song, followed by an introduction of dignitaries on Wednesday morning.
Leah LaPlante, southwest vice-president of the Manitoba Métis Federation, addressed the crowd.
“As an aboriginal leader in this community, and I’ve been here for 15 years … I see the content of this conference addresses a lot of issues we see,” LaPlante said. “The biggest catchphrase that drives me crazy is, ‘Why don’t you guys just get over it?’ Hopefully there’s people in the room today who will learn over the next two days, why it isn’t that easy to just get over it.”
LaPlante said the conference has the potential to make a difference, to help the community understand “how our people got to where they are and why their social issues are so deep and so big and so hard to try and alleviate.”
Carol Hughes, a federal NDP MP and deputy critic for aboriginal health, also addressed the crowd Wednesday.
“I believe we are entering into an era that values the importance of mental health, and removes some of the stigma that has clouded our ability to make … progress in any significant way,” Hughes said. “I am hopeful this will lead to more meaningful conversations on the subject which in turn will lead to better policy and programs, enabling us to move forward together.”
Paul Caslor presented a session entitled “What’s a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) To Do About Truth and Reconciliation?”
Caslor says that truth and reconciliation is not just for First Nations but for all nations, and may be at the very heart of what it should mean to be Canadian and Christian.
“Acknowledge the terrible legacy of the past as it ripples into the present and into the future,” he said. “Recognize and appreciate the healing efforts First Nations people and communities are undertaking.”
Looking down on people, dismissing them or disrespecting them is much too common, Caslor said.
“Some people still think that everything before Europeans came here was primitive and disorganized and even demonic,” he said. “That kind of ignorant, arrogant, colonial mentality is just offensive and it’s not just offensive to aboriginal people, it’s offensive to the Creator, to think we have packaged God and brought him on our ships.”
Caslor said it’s also important to help restore and reclaim some of the honour and respect that is due to the traditional teachings.
The conference continues Thursday with presentations on therapeutic benefits of traditional ceremonies and practices, building better partnerships and creating a culturally competent workforce, among many others.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 25, 2012