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9.6. Aboriginal Peoples

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I would like to see Aboriginal health advocates accompany people to places in the city because we do not always receive a good reception where we have to go. I think people are cruel towards us and the youth have no supports to help them get around and to get help.  – Survey respondent

People do not care to understand me or my situation as related to my disability. The other parts of who I am as 2-spirit, masculine identified [and] Aboriginal play into how people treat me, even before I want to discuss my ways of coping and living with mental health diagnosis and illness. – Survey respondent

Many organizations and individuals spoke of how Aboriginal Peoples in Canada have been affected by a long history of colonization, institutionalized racism and discrimination, such as the residential school policies. The Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC) said that for the urban Aboriginal population, this has led to intergenerational trauma, family violence, poverty, homelessness, lack of education and incarceration. All of these have serious negative impacts on people’s mental health.

Mental health issues such as suicide, depression and substance abuse are higher in many Aboriginal communities than in the overall population. The OFIFC stated that the Aboriginal suicide rate is 2.1 times the Canadian rate; Aboriginal women are three times more likely to commit suicide than their non-Aboriginal counterparts.[71] The suicide rate for Aboriginal youth aged 15 – 24 is five to six times that of the non-Aboriginal population.[72]

Stereotypes about drug and alcohol use were raised in the consultation. Many people described how they were treated unequally in services, exposed to harassing comments, or profiled as a security risk based on stereotypes about their Aboriginal identity and misperceptions about alcohol and drug use. The OFIFC said that the provincial mental health reform in the 1990s that led to hospital closures meant that many Aboriginal people with mental health issues and addictions were released into urban areas and not back to their communities of origin.

Many said lack of affordable housing was a major issue of concern and that it is much harder to get housing because of intersecting identities of having a mental health issue or addiction, and being of Aboriginal ancestry. 

[71] National Council of Welfare, First Nations, Métis and Inuit Children and Youth: Time to Act 127 (Ottawa: Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2007) at 64.

[72] Jeff Latimer & Laura Casey-Foss, A One-Day Snapshot of Aboriginal Youth in Custody across Canada: Phase II, (Ottawa: Department of Justice Canada, Youth Justice Research, February 2004) at iii.


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