Funding boost for residential school crisis line that was 'inundated' with calls after unmarked graves revealed
The province of British Columbia is sharing details on how it’s spending and distributing the $12 million it announced for communities and residential school survivors back in June.
Following the confirmation of unmarked graves at residential school sites across the country, Indigenous-led mental health organizations say they’ve seen a surge in demand for their services.
On Monday, the province announced it is allocating $1.5 million of the $12 million to three Iindigenous-led and lndigenous-delivered services.
“It's important that these services be Indigenous-designed and Indigenous-delivered,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
“These Indigenous service providers are here for those that are struggling, they have exceptional expertise in providing these vital supports.”
Angela White, executive director of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, said the funding provided to the society will go towards its 24-hour crisis line and its other programs. The demand for the crisis line skyrocketed in the six weeks after news of the unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School made headlines this spring, she said.
“Our numbers speak for themselves.”
Every day, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., staff were collectively handling about 500 to 600 calls, she said. The evening teams were also flooded with calls.
“Each person was averaging about 30 to 45 calls during the evening,” White said. “Our call line was inundated.”
Although call volume has somewhat waned, the lines are still busy, she said.
“Some of the words that we have received from those that have partaken in that crisis line is that they are happy to have a place where they feel safe, that...the person on the other end of the phone is Indigenous,” White said.
“(Our callers feel confident that our staff) understand where they're coming from, and that they have the ability to extend even more assistance if required when it comes to cultural safety.”
Rankin and White were joined by Nola Jeffrey of the Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society and Lissa Smith of the Métis Nation BC, and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson.
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society will receive $750,000 for additional counselling and cultural support staff. The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society will receive $500,000 to provide more in-person health, wellness and cultural supports, and the Métis Counselling Connection Program will receive $250,000 for mental health services specific to the experience of Métis survivors.
The rest of the $12,000 will be distributed to the 21 caretaker communities. These are nations that are near to where the province’s residential schools were located, but the services provided are open to any Indigenous person who attended the schools. Rankin said that to date, $2.85 million of that money has been “taken up” by the communities, and it will remain available until it’s been spent.
Support services for residential school survivors in B.C. can be found here:
- The KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a 24-hour, provincewide Indigenous crisis line for Indigenous peoples in B.C.
- Adults, call 250 723-4050. Children and youth, call 250 723-2040. Toll-free: 1 800 588-8717
- First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line for Indigenous people across Canada:
- Phone toll-free 1 855 242-3310 or chat online: https://www.hopeforwellness.ca/
- The Métis Crisis Line for Métis people in B.C., available 24 hours a day at 1 833 MétisBC: 1 833 638-4722
- Tsow Tun Le Lum for Indigenous peoples in B.C., phone: 1 888 403-3123
- Indian Residential School Survivors Society, phone: 1 800 721-0066 or 604 985-4464
- 24-Hour National Crisis Line for residential school survivors and others affected: 1 866 925-4419