Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre

This sector is made up of the Life Long Care, Aboriginal Healing & Wellness, Urban Healthy Living, Kizhaay Anishinaabe Nin and the Indian Residential School Survivor Programs which exist under the Resolution Health / Cultural Support section. The Sector also supports the activities of a Cultural Resource Coordinator. All of the programs are designed to provide support to individuals and families as they transition through the various stages of personal growth and family development. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being is explored through a variety workshops and activities in group and one-to-one sessions promoting healthy lifestyle choices including healthy eating, physical activity and positive relationships. Each program emphasizes community support while maintaining traditions and a cultural foundation.

Aboriginal Healing and Wellness

In line with everything we do at Toronto Council Fire, the AHWP focuses on providing culturally-based support that addresses the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health of the Indigenous community. The AWHP is driven by two factors:

1)  Many of our community members and clients in Toronto are disconnected from their families and home communities; and

2) Aboriginal well-being requires activities that foster a positive cultural identity. Emphasis is placed on providing access to traditional counselling, sharing and healing circles, medicine walks, outings to ceremonial events and cultural gatherings.

Programs and Services

The AHWP continues to do exceptional work to raise the well-being of our community members. A large majority of AHWP members are residential school and intergenerational survivors that appreciate the weekly healing circles. This forum allows survivors to share and heal together. There is also great demand for traditional craft circles, getting back to nature trips and self-care workshops that are mmensely therapeutic for participants. Many of our senior members require assistance with transportation and getting to events, therefore we frequently use “Wheel trans”. Additionally, we offer abuse prevention programs for seniors, which provides access to medication, and information on substance and elderly abuse. Staff are currently working to address issues with food insecurity, housing affordability, and general health issues including mental health.

Urban Aboriginal Healthy Living Program

The Urban Healthy Living Programme (UAHLP) has the mandate to address the high rates of chronic illness in the Aboriginal community through a preventative and integrative approach. Therefore, healthy eating, physical fitness, physical recreation, sports (formal or recreational), smoking cessation and youth leadership are central to program planning and all age groups whether on site or in partnership.

Nutrition, Exercise and Self Expression

Healthy eating teaches about nutrition, weight control and budgeting. These are best delivered as a community kitchen model and are part of children and youth initiatives. Physical activity (and healthy eating) is prominent in the Moccasin Trails Program and student nurses’ assignment with Little Embers.  Healthy Steps is geared towards staff and the community members who join together towards healthy breathing, getting your heart pumping and enjoying the beauty of the outdoor weather. Self expression through art, encouraging a holistic (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) approach to healthy living including nutritional information.

Smoking Cessation

Toronto Public Health Smoking Cessation Department has partnered with Council Fire in counseling and the dispensing of nicotine replacement products to help people quit cigarettes. These (gum and patches) are free of charge. The Public Health Nurse has seen fifteen persons, four report quitting or cutting down the number of cigarettes smoked per day.

Youth Leadership

The Youth Leadership program is partnered with the colleges and universities. It consists of discussing current topics of interest with youth and cooking a snack with them;  is designed to develop communication skills, and ability to work with others within a team setting, healthy living, and cultural knowledge of traditional foods and medicines.

Diabetes Peer Educator Training Enhancement to programs comes by way of outside partnerships as with the Toronto Public Health Diabetes Prevention Peer Educator Training. This project resulted in lay people teaching persons of their own age how to prevent diabetes type 2. The staff who trained reported improvement in their own eating habits and exercise routines and transfer of this knowledge to their families. These are very desirable outcomes. The training also motivated peer educators to work together, develop facilitation skills and come away with a sense of pride about their performance.

Placement Students

Student nurses from the University of Toronto and Centennial College continue to have their Community Health Nursing placement experience at Council Fire on a regular basis depending on their semester schedule.  The nurses participate in the delivery of a number of successful wellness workshops and community health fairs. It is an opportunity for personal and career development.  Students come to placement with new ideas and knowledge which benefits both staff and students and is a very rewarding experience in Council Fire with the variety of programs that are offered.

Life Long Care Program (LLCP)

This LLC program was created to ensure the development and provision of culturally appropriate community support and professional services, with particular attention to the needs of Aboriginal seniors/Elders, the “disabled”, and the chronically ill with special needs. The delivery of community support services such as: transportation, friendly visiting, congregate dining, Aboriginal support, security reassurance and life skills outreach in the community.

LLCP is a program designed to respond to the lifelong care needs of older Aboriginal people who may have limited mobility related to a persistent medical condition or physical disability.

The goal of the program is the provision of culturally appropriate and holistic services that meets the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs while ensuring the quality of life for those receiving lifelong care services.

The Life Long Care Program (LLCP) is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, through the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC).

Food Delivery: This service is provided weekly for those who are unable to pick up their groceries due to disabilities. There are approximately five consistent clients each week who require this service.

Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin

Kizhaay Anishnaabe Niin (KAN) is an initiative created to provide an opportunity for communities and organizations to engage Aboriginal

men and youth in understanding violence against Aboriginal women and support them in ending the violence. Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin is an Ojibway phrase that translates to “I Am a Kind Man”. At a time when violence is invading our communities, this program reminds us that violence has never been an acceptable part of Aboriginal culture. Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin workers and facilitators embrace the Seven Grandfather Teachings:  wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth to work towards ending violence against Aboriginal women.

The intent is that Aboriginal youth and men will speak out against violence towards women. This program provides education for men to address issues of abuse against women. KAN gives specific information on women abuse and exercises for youth and adults to learn in groups. The goal of “I Am a Kind Man” is to empower men to help other men in the protection of women, to honour and respect everything in life, and to guide their children with these ideals.

Programs and Services

KAN supports healthy relationships and Aboriginal identities through one-to-one or group-based services, participant-based and public awareness activities, networking and partnership building. Our programs and services include:

  • One-to-One Peer Counselling
  • Service Navigation
  • Individual Advocacy Support
  • Justice-Related Individual Supports
  • Individual and Family Support
  • Individual Traditional Teachings
  • Referrals to Other Friendship Centres
  • One-to-one supports
  • Group-Based Services
  • Participant-Based Activities
  • Networking and Partnership Building
  • Public Awareness (Broader Community Engagement) Activities

Resolution Health / Cultural Support – IRSS Program

Naandwidizwin – Wechihitita (Healing Ourselves – Helping Each Other)

‘Naandwidizwin – Wechihitita (Healing Ourselves–Helping Each Other)’ program continues to develop and provide the much needed services to residential school former students (survivors) and their families (intergenerational). This community-based initiative, now a program, takes a holistic approach in addressing the immediate, ongoing, and long-term healing processes of the Residential School Survivors and their families (inter-generational) physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. This process has involved, in part, the reclaiming of Aboriginal identity, healing of past traumas, reconciliation with the Church, and acquiring life skills to build a healthier future for themselves and their families.

Due to the infliction and trauma experienced by so many of the former students of the Indian Residential School System, our programming looks at a restoration (making things right) with each IRSS former student by offering a combination of opportunities to fulfill childhood wants/dreams; to offer healing through one on one counselling by a traditional/respected Elder/Resource Persons/Resolution Health Support Worker (RHSW), healing circles. The programming, outings, and activities offer renewed friendships, dare to dream projects; interacting with other IRSS groups; increasing awareness of self and others. This is fulfilled through their educational awareness, cultural and historical recounting sessions; healthy living and lifestyles through physical exercise, nutritious foods, cooking, engaging with others; healthy conversations, know how/when to say No without feeling guilty. In short, the entire programming, activities, and events offer SELF-LOVE and EMPOWERMENT to each participant.

Through various forums including the strategic planning session where the Indian Residential School Survivors (IRSS) and their families had an opportunity to provide feedback on the programs and services delivered in the past year, what works, review best practices, areas of focus going forward, as well as through Council Fire gatherings and client surveys. The IRSS Resolution Health Program Team has ensured community involvement in the design and delivery of the programming and projects. Council Fire Team acknowledges the healing work of each IRSS and their family members, in particular the support that they give to one another. Their participation throughout the program gives them a sense of belonging, evidenced by the increased number of survivors and intergenerational participating in the programs and services.

The programming and projects have definitely solidified the identity of each IRSS and their want to learn their language that is being included in all circles, encouraging the use of Cree, Anishinaabe, and Oneida languages as spoken in everyday situations. Language is also promoted through fun activities as highlighted in the Cree Cultural Week and the community exchange with the Oneida Nation of the Thames community.

Council Fire remains committed to the development of mentors, peer support, and ambassadors of the program and projects. We have a strong team of such workers in place. They are positive role models, traditional helpers, cultural craft designers and teachers, storytellers, medicine caretakers, language teachers, mental wellness supports, and public speakers, etc.

Program participants access a wide array of resources and activities in which they are able to explore issues on an individual basis or in group and community activities. The program blends contemporary (mainstream) approaches to mental wellness with traditional healing methods that include Art and Music Therapy, Physical Fitness, Traditional Ceremonies, Nutrition, Life Skills, One to One Counselling, Sharing Circles, Women Circles, Cultural activities, support and development, language teaching in Cree, Anishinaabe, and Oneida; Continued education and healing activities, self-care and personal development; Developing and implementing activities that deal with different stages of grieving, establishing boundaries, trust-building, and building self-esteem and establishing community-based support systems that foster and advocate long term healing and reconciliation.

Funded Services and Partnerships include:

1. Health Canada Resolution Health Support Program (RHSP) provided funding to increase and maintain the healing and wellness of Aboriginal people through the provision of health and cultural support services to the former Indian Residential School students and their families so they may safely address the broad spectrum of mental wellness issues related to the impacts of the Indian Residential School (IRS) system;

2. National Indian Brotherhood Trust (NIB Trust) provided project funding for language and culture, education/employment/training and healing and Personal Development; and

3. With the Heritage Canada, Aboriginal Language Initiative (ALI), the “Reclaiming, Growing and Strengthening Our Talk” funded project with the Oneida and Cree language training.