Province and First Nations advocacy group team up to create youth healing lodge

THOMPSON — The Manitoba government and a First Nations advocacy group are working together on what the government says is a first-of-its-kind youth healing lodge in the province.

Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said Friday the province is providing $2 million in funding to Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which oversees 26 northern First Nations in the province, to create and operate a youth community healing lodge in the northern city of Thompson.

Goertzen said the goal is to provide more justice resources in the north, reduce reoffender rates and lower the use of RCMP cells for non-violent youth detained for intoxication.

The concept is new in Manitoba and will be Indigenous led, he said.

“We have to ensure that the programming is right. We have to listen to the right elders and experts in terms of … (what) we’re going to have in the healing lodge.”

Grand Chief Garrison Settee said his organization has long been advocating for a facility in northern Manitoba to provide interventions, programs and resources for First Nations youth.

Currently, youth from the north are sent to Winnipeg for correctional services, said Settee, which is not always helpful in rehabilitation efforts.

“This way we’re taking them and allowing them to be in the north, so that they can have the support and the cultural teachings that they need to be able to find their way.”

The project is to be completed in three phases. The first is to help youth return to their communities and connect with their culture.

The second and third phases are to include building the healing lodge and enhancing mental-health and addiction supports.

Settee said offering culturally relevant services can help address the pain some First Nations youth face because of intergenerational trauma.

“We’re not only treating the systems but the root causes of why young people exhibit these kind of traits that get them in trouble.”

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