Social determinants of health refer to a specific group of social and economic factors within the broader determinants of health. These relate to an individual’s place in society, such as income, education, or employment. Experiences of discrimination, racism, and historical trauma are important social determinants of health for certain groups such as Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQ and Black Canadians.
In Canada, the disastrous impacts of colonialism by European settlers on the health and mental health of Indigenous People, particularly through confiscation of indigenous land, oppression of indigenous culture, and imposition of the residential school system, have also been extensively studied scientifically and thoroughly documented in numerous reports.
The national body of psychologists in Canada, namely the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), has acknowledged accountability for harms done to Indigenous People by the profession of psychology in Canada. CPA has admitted that psychologists violated their code of ethics in dealing with Indigenous People and issues. CPA has also admitted that psychologists did not oppose discriminatory government policies that promoted the marginalization and oppression of Indigenous People.
CPA has apologized for failing to be supportive allies and advocates to Indigenous People and has committed itself to issue regular policy statements to address social justice and advocacy, as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. CPA has recognized the importance of the connection to the land within Indigenous concepts of self and healing, and the relevance of the natural environment to healing and treatment. The Psychological Association of Manitoba (PAM) has also committed to following through with recommendations in the TRC report through a special Task Force. MPS supports the CPA’s Psychology’s Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Report.
The Manitoba Psychological Society (MPS), as an advocacy body, is aware that the trauma experienced by Indigenous People, individually and collectively, due to colonialism is transmitted inter-generationally and continues to this day. It is a prime driver of the vastly poorer health and mental health outcomes experienced by Indigenous People in Canada. For trauma to be healed, the conditions producing it must first be eradicated, so as not to re-traumatize those affected.
MPS believes that all Psychologists should gain cultural literacy. This means obtaining significant knowledge of the history of Indigenous peoples including the impacts of the Residential School System and Day Schools along with the 60’s Scoop. They should also have awareness of the current issues facing Indigenous peoples in Manitoba and across Canada and to be prepared to provide treatment that is culturally sensitive and aware. This can include participation in trainings provided by Indigenous people regarding topics such as Traditional Healing practices and the connection between evidence-based practices and Indigenous ways of knowing and being.
MPS and its members want to be part of the solution. We want to identify as Allies for Indigenous peoples. We also understand there is still work to do to reach that important goal. We are committing to do that work and gain the knowledge that is required to provide safe environments, fight against colonial ideas and values, and provide services in a culturally literate manner.