James Smith Cree Nation Responds to Prime Minister’s Visit and Funding Pledge

Darryl Burns became emotional when asked what a James Smith Cree Nation Wellness Center would mean to him, saying it was overwhelming.

« It’s a hell of a start, » he said, « but now we have to keep going. »

Burns lost his sister, Gloria Lydia Burns, in the September 4 stabbing attacks on James Smith. Since then, Burns, who has worked as an addiction counselor, said addictions are part of what fueled the attack and also what plagued the community for generations.

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He said Monday’s federal announcement of $40 million over six years for a center and programs could finally help JSCN residents pass on a new legacy.

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« When we heal the adults, when we heal the parents of those children, it’s the children who will benefit the most, » he said.

But he said addiction and alcohol issues are just one of many facets of the trauma of residential schools and colonization — and helping everyone fully will take a lot more work.

Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) agreed. He welcomed the funding, but said many other First Nations need wellness centers and additional support.

« The violence, the dysfunction with alcohol and drugs and everything that goes with it is just unbelievable…It’s a state of emergency every month, every week in some cases, » Cameron told Global News .

« Let’s keep building, » he said.

“Let’s keep building and doing more to keep our communities safe, healthy and vibrant.

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The Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) completed construction of the Woodland Cree Wellness Center in July.

It took years of planning to get to this stage and to secure nearly $12 million in funding from the federal government.

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The soft opening, LLRIB chief Tammy Cook-Searson said, is on Wednesday. Community members will be able to walk around and see what the center looks like.

It will start admitting inpatients for treatment in its 24 beds next January.

Cook-Searson said the services it will provide will be vital.

Click to play the video: “Saskatchewan knife attacks: Trudeau commits $62.5 million to James Smith's Cree Nation healing”

Knife attacks in Saskatchewan: Trudeau commits $62.5 million to James Smith’s Cree Nation healing

« It’s really important because, for me, my sister took her own life in 2003, » she told Global News.

« This center is about building capacity in the North and building something that was built by us, for us, » she said.

Citing high suicide rates in the north of the province and among Indigenous peoples, she said it’s important that everyone has a place to seek treatment where they can « feel that they have hope, that we love them, we care about them, and we want them to heal.

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She, too, echoed the call for more wellness centers and more support for First Nations people.

“Twenty-four beds is a lot,” she says, “but there are many more people who need help.

Cameron said the FSIN will continue to advocate and lobby for additional support, which also includes housing.

“The shortage of it contributes to the. To poverty and the lifestyle of alcohol and drugs,” he said.

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Before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the funding to James Smith on Monday, he participated in a grand entrance alongside chiefs of James Smith, the Peter Chapman Band and the Chakastaypasin Band of the Cree Nation.

The entrance was in a school gymnasium and they were surrounded by children.

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This is the same gymnasium where, months earlier, some of the wakes for the victims of the stabbing attacks took place.

Burns said the goal of any community should be to provide for its young people.

« They’re going to start hearing positive messages, » he said, referring to children.

« They’re going to hear positive lessons from all of this and their future will be brighter than the one I had. »

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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