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CBHSSJB joins Cree Nation Government Response to Indian Residential School Experience

Audio file
Chairperson Bertie Wapachee (Cree and English)

On Monday, June 14, Bertie Wapachee, Chairperson of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay, joined the Grand Chief Dr. Abel Bosum, Cree School Board Chairperson Sarah Pashagumskum and Chisasibi Chief Daisy House in a Leadership Press Conference responding to the Kamloops discovery.

Bertie Wapachee, Chair of CBHSSJB

“It has been more than four decades since the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay has consolidated its autonomy over the wellbeing and healing of our people,” stated Mr. Wapachee in his remarks at the press conference held at Chisasibi Mitchuap and broadcast live online and on regional radio. “It has been a long and arduous journey of building infrastructure, strengthening institutional capacity, and deploying a health system that meets the needs of our people, that responds to their health and wellness priorities, and reflects our own understanding of Miyupimȃtisîun. While the federal and provincial governments are still moving too slow in responding to the TRC’s 94 Calls for Action, the CBHSSJB has long worked towards Indigenizing our institution. Indeed, section 14 of the JBNQA formally recognized Cree values and traditions as central to the development and delivery of health and social services in Eeyou Istchee.”

Mr. Wapachee stated the Board’s intention to work with government and community partners to accelerate a project to create the Mîniwȃchihwȃukimikw Land-Based Healing Lodge for adults with dependency issues. The Lodge, slated to open as early as 2023, will offer a permanent year-round base for healing in a traditional setting. It will be located near the Cree Nation of Chisasibi.

Calling for structural change from the provincial and federal governments, Mr. Wapachee called for partners to come together to address accreditation barriers and invest in infrastructure and training that will allow the Cree Nation to train more community members as specialists to meet the health care needs of our communities, providing care in the community and in the Cree language.


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    Drum circle
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    Bertie Wapachee
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    Bertie Wapachee speaking while other representatives look on

The Nishîyȗ Council of Elders (NCOE) of Eeyou Istchee issued a joint public statement with the CBHSSJB Department (which guides the organization in bringing traditional approaches into its model of care). They state: “We are heeding the TRC calls to action - through land based healing, cultural safety, promoting holistic understanding of health and well-being. We are committed to supporting everyone affected by this news, including our teams and community members.” The full statement is available below.

Through its Mȃnȗhîkȗ Mental Health Department, the CBHSSJB offers mental health support for residential school survivors and their families through the IRS Support Program. More broadly, the CBHSSJB offers mental health services through a trauma-informed approach, recognizing that many social issues that exist in the communities today have their roots in trauma originating from colonial practices including residential schools, that continue to echo through the generations.

The Cree Health Board is a partner in organizing an annual Residential School Gathering on Fort George Island, site of St. Philip’s (1933-1975) and Ste. Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus (1937-1981) schools. The 2021 Gathering will take place July 26-30 with the theme, Honouring our Values. The Gatherings include ceremonies, workshops on trauma and healing, self-care and counselling for survivors and their families.

On May 31, in honour of the children who never returned from the Kamloops Indian Residential Schools and other schools throughout Canada, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay observed an Hour of Remembrance on Monday, May 31 at 12:00 pm. and at 2:15 pm all employees observed 215 seconds of silence.

Read the CNG Press Release:


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