Ontario Psychiatric Association (OPA)
Indigenous Health Initiative

Indigenous people in Canada experience difficulties with mental health and addictions at rates more than double those among non-Indigenous people. They also are over-represented in the criminal justice system. Many Indigenous people are understandably reluctant to seek treatment for fear of perpetual systemic discrimination and maltreatment stemming from government policies.

In 2018, OPA Council endorsed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Calls to Action. The TRC acknowledges the undeniable health disparities that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. We agree with and support the essential priority of Indigenous rights and Indigenous health in Canada. It is our goal over the coming years to actively partner with Indigenous colleagues and stakeholders in the co-creation and meeting of our objectives.

Previous accomplishments of this working group have included:

  • OPA conferences opening with a recognition of traditional territorial lands
  •  Council endorsement of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada’s addition of an accreditation standard related to addressing Indigenous health

We believe that psychiatrists training and practicing in Ontario should have an appreciation of historical and current practices and policies related to Indigenous persons in Canada and the associated impacts on health, including, but not limited to: colonization and assimilation, systemic discrimination and racism, child apprehension, legacies of residential schools, land dispossession, loss of language and culture, and intergenerational trauma.

Objectives:

  1. To increase knowledge of topics related to Indigenous mental health in our members.
  2. To highlight innovative partnerships that serve as examples of mental health services incorporating both Traditional Healing practices and Western psychiatric treatment.
  3. To ensure that postgraduate psychiatry training programs in Ontario have dedicated Indigenous mental health curriculum and training objectives.

Proposal for how these Objectives may be met:

  1. Include dedicated conference talks or tracks on Indigenous mental health.
  2. Disseminate information to members and trainees regarding partnership programs such as Biigajiiskaan: Indigenous Pathways to Mental Wellness at St. Joseph’s Health Care London.
  3. Work with postgraduate training programs to assess their current attention to matters of Indigenous mental health and expand on this.
  4. Collate culturally-sensitive resources and services related to Indigenous health as a reference on our website.

Michelle Marlborough, MD, FRCPC
Indigenous Health Initiative Lead


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