CACBT Statement on Residential Schools

Response to the Discovery at the former Kamloops Residential School

June 4, 2021

The Board Members of the Canadian Association of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies (CACBT) would like to express our heartbreak and outrage upon learning about the remains of 215 Indigenous children from the the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nations found in a mass grave at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. This discovery is a terrible reminder of the profound injustices inflicted on First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation by the forced removal of children to attend residential schools and the pervasive harm, neglect, violence, and systemic racism perpetrated in those schools. We offer our heartfelt condolences to all survivors of the residential school system, their descendants, their families, and their communities.

This discovery does not represent a “dark chapter in Canada’s history.” Rather it is one example of the colonial genocide perpetrated by the Canadian government against Indigenous peoples. The Indian Residential School System was established as part of a coherent policy of forced assimilation, designed to eliminate Indigenous peoples as distinct people. The result was cultural genocide and the elimination of whole generations of Indigenous peoples. Indeed, the Kamloops school was one of over 130 such schools that operated in Canada between the 1880s and 1996.  

Yet the systemic oppression of Indigenous peoples in Canada is not behind us. Still today, Indigenous people are overrepresented in foster care and prisons; many live without access to clean drinking water or stable housing; significant inequalities exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada in terms of education, employment, and health; and thousands of Indigenous women and girls are missing or have been murdered.

In remembrance of the 215 children and their families, and in the context of Indigenous History Month, we urge all non-Indigenous people to take time to learn about the residential school system and its impact on generations of Indigenous people: Talk to your families, friends, and colleagues about Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples; teach your children about residential schools; read (or re-read) the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (http://www.trc.ca/assets/pdf/Executive_Summary_English_Web.pdf) and call upon your federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to heed its Calls to Action; and listen to and amplify Indigenous voices.

As an organization, CACBT commits to doing better. In June 2020, in response to the brutal and senseless killing of George Floyd as well as the countless other Indigenous, Black, and other People of Colour who have been victims of police violence and broader systemic oppression, CACBT issued a statement committing to increasing our inclusivity and fighting racism and discrimination. Our short-term goals included the following: creating a webinar series about CBT with people from racialized groups; working on initiatives to increase access to CBT for clients from these groups; establishing an award to promote the work of students who are Indigenous, Black, or People of Colour; and taking steps to increase the diversity of our membership. We have taken action on all of these items. Yet this is only the beginning and we can do more.

As Board Members of CACBT, we commit to taking steps to improve our own understanding of the atrocities inflicted on Indigenous people in Canada and examining our own and our professions’ roles in the ongoing discrimination against Indigenous people. We also commit to exploring how our organization can help improve the availability of and access to cognitive-behavioural interventions that have been culturally adapted for Indigenous peoples.

As our first steps, we commit to the following: (a) hosting a webinar series designed to foster clinicians’ cultural humility regarding Indigenous peoples’ mental health and wellness needs and help them learn to provide culturally- and contextually-appropriate interventions; (b) exploring ways in which our organization can increase Indigenous’ students’ access to the mental health professions; and (c) free CACBT membership to mental health providers who identify as Indigenous.