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Unifor Social Justice Fund and Save the Children launch mental health program for children in Cat Lake

June 21, 2019 - 12:00 AM

TORONTO – The Unifor Social Justice Fund has donated $100,000 to Save the Children Canada to launch the ‘Journey of Hope’ program in Cat Lake First Nation, to provide mental health support to children coping with an ongoing housing and health emergency.

“The way children live at home becomes who they are. If they live in poor conditions, they have poor health, poor attitudes and poor self-esteem,” said Cat Lake Councilor Joyce Cook. “Our houses are also overcrowded; people don’t have the space to look after their own mental health.”

Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program offers grade and age-specific curricula that incorporates traditional knowledge and teachings. The goal is to build capacity within the community to help children develop positive strategies to cope with traumatic events, build their natural resilience and strengthen their social support networks.

“The housing crisis in Cat Lake is a complex issue with wide-reaching implications. Community members have told us how this crisis is proving detrimental to children and youth’s mental health,” said Lewis Archer, Program Manager at Save the Children Canada. “Programs like these, made possible through the support of Unifor, help build the resilience and emotional literacy of children and young people affected by the crisis, providing positive coping mechanisms and safe spaces to share their experiences.”

In January 2019, Cat Lake First Nation declared a health and housing emergency after excessive medical evacuations were required to treat invasive bacterial diseases, including skin diseases and lung infections after black mould was found in almost 70 per cent of the homes. 

“Many of the mental health challenges we’re facing now stem from the residential school system, it’s so much more than just the mould problem,” said Derek Spence, Head Councilor, Cat Lake First Nation.

The Unifor Social Justice Fund donation will be used to train both youth and Elders in child-focused psychosocial programming to benefit approximately 100 children in the community.

“Unifor will continue to work with Indigenous partners in support of Reconciliation with a focus on providing assistance to programs that aid women and children,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. In Canada and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share.

Media contact: Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe  kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org  or 416-896-3303 (cell).