AFN National Mental Wellness Forum Focuses on Life Promotion and Cultural Pathways to Closing Health Gap

Published: Apr 05, 2019News

(Ottawa, ON) – In advance of World Health Day, First Nations from across Canada gathered in Winnipeg, Manitoba this week for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Mental Wellness Forum.  More than 500 First Nations citizens, health providers and experts gathered to identify gaps in prevention, support and care services, and to discuss and implement strategies to integrate cultural pathways for closing the health gap between First Nations and Canada.

“I am encouraged by the thoughtful discussions and deliberations that took place at the AFN National Mental Wellness Forum this week, and I lift up all delegates for their input and participation,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  “I believe our culture, languages and traditions have an important and integral role in achieving overall health and wellness, and can be integrated in ways that support healing and life promotion, and close the overall health gap between First Nations and Canadians.”

Last week the Canadian Medical Journal Association released a study linking poverty among Indigenous people in Canada to challenges in mental health and suicide. The study included survey responses filed with Statistics Canada in 2012.

“We cannot implement solutions without knowing where we’ve come from. We must factor in the traumas from the past and how they relate to the present and future,” said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart. “I acknowledge and commend the strength and courage of the many delegates and guest speakers who shared lived experiences this week. This is how we learn and grow as leaders and as health professionals. We have a clearer path forward based on input and discussion this week. We’ve identified specific areas that require transformative change from government policy to individual behavior and approaches.  With the input and discussion this week, we have a better understanding of the overall state of First Nations wellness and can identify approaches to address specific challenges, including the growing opioid crisis, to improve overall mental wellness among our people.”

The three-day national forum included guest speakers and workshops in the areas of addiction, life promotion, culture, gender and sexuality. Discussion focused on access to health services, highlighting best practices and innovative approaches in these areas.

“Current programs and services for First Nations mental wellness must change to address the multiple barriers and challenges existing at all levels of government,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “The AFN will continue to work directly with First Nations to advocate for appropriate supports and investments in First Nations-led approaches, with the intent of creating initiatives, policies, funding mechanisms, programs and services that are culturally relevant and provide proven results for our people.”

World Health Day is recognized annually by the World Health Organization and globally April 7. 

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.




For more information, please contact:

Jenna Young Castro, Senior Communications Advisor, Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 201 or 613-314-8157 (cell) [email protected]

Monica Poirier, Bilingual Communications Officer, Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382 or 613-292-0857 [email protected]