A Statement from the College of Psychologists on the discovery of the unmarked graves at the former Residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan

Canadians were horrified by the discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children at the former Kamloops Residential school. Our shock further intensified with the uncovering of 751 unmarked graves at the Marieval Residential School in Saskatchewan and most recently 182 unmarked graves close to the former St. Eugene’s Mission School in Cranbrook, B.C.

The College of Psychologists of Ontario joins with others, both from Canada and internationally, in expressing our sincere condolences to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc People, the Cowessess First Nation and to all Indigenous Peoples of Canada; especially the survivors of the residential school system. It is impossible to genuinely comprehend the trauma and grief being experienced by all those affected by the discovery of these unmarked Indigenous children’s graves. It is with profound sadness that we wait, anticipating news of further unmarked graves, as the grounds of the many more residential schools are searched.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Canada: Calls to Action contained recommendations in a number of domains including education, health, and justice. While none were directed specifically at the regulation of the profession of psychology, it did suggest a number of recommendations to which the College should turn its attention, in addition to supporting the overall implementation of the TRC Calls to Action.

Within the Health domain, these include:

22. We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.

23. We call upon all levels of government to:
i. Increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in the health-care field.
ii. Ensure the retention of Aboriginal health-care providers in Aboriginal communities.
iii. Provide cultural competency training for all health-care professionals.

24. We call upon medical and nursing schools in Canada to require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

The College of Psychologists of Ontario is committed to working toward equity, diversity and inclusion in the regulation of psychology, in the profession of psychology and in the broader society, and to fighting racism and discrimination in all forms and toward all Indigenous People.