Jennifer M. Kilty. Criminology, University of Ottawa
Colleen Dell. Sociology, University of Saskatchewan
Sharon Acoose. Indian Social Work, First Nations University of Canada
Debbie Blunderfield. Community Participant, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Val Desjarlais. Community Participant, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Positioning the Voices of First Nations Women: The Impact of Stigma in Our Healing Journeys from Illicit Drug Abuse
Within his report, Senator Michael Kirby identifies that he has failed to address substance abuse in appropriate depth. He also acknowledges that, “the addiction field lacks powerful voices, a vacuum that has left only policy makers and health providers to speak for anonymous clients” (p.207). The report’s lack of representation of the voices, standpoints and discourses of individuals dealing with addictions is reflective of the field in general. The need to address this shortcoming is particularly evident in Kirby’s discussion of stigma and addictions in his report.
This paper discusses how the voices of First Nations women are directing a national research project on the role of stigma in their healing journeys from illicit drug abuse. What may appear on its surface to be a simple objective is in fact an intense and complex undertaking. For example, our project began with compiling the life histories of three First Nations team members regarding their personal healing journeys from illicit drug abuse, with each reflecting on the important role of self-identity and the devastating impacts of stigma on the construction of their sense of self. Although antithetical to a western approach to understanding, it was the only way we could responsibly commence a 3-year study that was committed to positioning the experiences of women so that their voices are authoritative, recognized and celebrated. This paper raises key insights from our research experiences that we suggest must be considered if meaningful discussion is going to ensue from the Kirby report regarding addictions and hearing the voices of those most impacted.
Geertje Boschma and Vicki Smye. Nursing, University of British Columbia
Diversity of Voices: Will it Make a Difference?
In response to the Kirby report, the Mental Health Commission of Canada was established in the summer of 2007, chaired by Senator Kirby. One of the goals of the Commission is to “[b]e a catalyst for the reform of mental health policies and improvements in service delivery.” The committee members are a diverse group of Canadians representing a wide range of stakeholder’s voices in mental health.
The purpose of our presentation on this panel is to raise further discussion about the opportunities and challenges related to this particular goal. We perceive the inclusion of diverse voices as an opportunity for being a change catalyst, but it also poses challenges.