Understanding The Role of Healing in Aboriginal Communities

Understanding The Role of Healing in Aboriginal Communities PDF Version (1 MB)

by Marcia B. Krawll
APC 10 CA (1994)
July, 1994

This report was prepared under contract with the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada. The views expressed are those of the author and the participants, and are not necessarily those of the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada.

Table of contents


The report attempts to develop a common understanding of "healing" among Aboriginal community members and non-Aboriginal government representatives. "Healing" is a term now widely used but perhaps not well understood. It is used to refer to certain positive developments occurring in Aboriginal communities in Canada and elsewhere.

The purpose of this report is threefold:

Chapter II describes how the study was conducted. The report is based on in-depth interviews with Aboriginal community members in five communities across Canada, together with similar interviews with federal and provincial government representatives. In total, 121 in-person interviews were conducted. In addition, telephone and mail contact was made with persons in three other Aboriginal communities. The report relies heavily on the actual words of the people interviewed in order to give life to the analysis.

Chapter III describes a healthy or healing community. Several aspects of the healing process are also common to a concept which is probably better known to non-Aboriginal people under the name community development. The author suggests that the language and process of community development may assist governments to understand what Aboriginal people mean when they say "healing".

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal participants alike identified many of the same aspects of a healthy community, or one which has been on the road to healing. These aspects included: people getting involved in their community; a greater sense of trust, caring and sharing among community members; positive parenting and the sharing of intergenerational wisdom; openness and communication among community members, without blaming or shame; clear role expectations and people taking responsibility; and a sense of connectedness and sensitivity to one another which promotes healthy partnerships and collective action.

Chapter IV explores the process of healing. Healing was universally recognized to be a very complex phenomenon, and one which was difficult to define. No single definition was found. However, it is suggested that there are three key aspects to the process of healing: that it comes from within and moves outward, often starting with the individual and then moving to the family and then to the community; that to be successful, it must address all parts of life concurrently and keep them in balance; and that it may start from a series of discrete programs such as substance abuse counselling, but must move into a holistic process involving a community mandate which is more than the sum of these individual parts.

In Chapter V, the report explores the community's readiness to heal itself. It is important to be able to recognize when a community is ready, because that is the time when support is critical and unnecessary barriers to development should be removed. Among the signs of readiness are that people recognize the problems, are motivated to change, and are willing to take responsibility. This Chapter also raises the question of who should determine when a community is ready to heal. It is the community itself that should do so, but it is unrealistic to expect that all individuals in a community will reach consensus on readiness at the same time. Often, it is a core group in the community who recognize that the community is ready, and initiate activities which start the process of healing.

Chapter VI outlines some of the recognizable steps and activities which tend to set in motion the process for healing. The community's vision crystallizes; people move from a belief that change can occur to a process for making it happen; there is self-exploration, community support and the beginnings of a spiritual journey; a core group of people initiate activities in support of change; and people recognize the value of what is already in place in the community, and begin to build on that in a natural, organic way.

Chapter VII deals specifically with the ways in which a healing approach can apply with victims of crime and offenders. Many community members suggested that such an approach can effectively respond to certain concerns about the criminal justice system and provide an ideal community response to crime:

Chapter VIII further explores some of the ways in which "healing" may be understood as a process of community development. Ways are suggested in which outsiders may be of assistance in the process, but emphasizes that the community itself must maintain control. Some new ways are suggested for assessing the impact of healing, which is slow, complex and profound, and therefore invisible to some of the more commonly used measures of change. Perhaps the most important indicator of healing is that people take more responsibility for their community.

Chapter IX addresses some of the ways in which non-Aboriginal government programs and processes could be made to be more responsive to and supportive of communities' healing. One of the biggest obstacles is that the narrow confines of many government programs and mandates get in the way of holistic approaches which seek to treat the whole person, the whole family, and the whole community. Some of the most useful things governments can do include acknowledging similarities and differences through open dialogue, being supportive instead of directive, and providing skills training. Most of all, government assistance should be provided in ways designed to support a sustained and integrated community effort, and to build on skills and resources in the community so that people can carry on independently after funding is withdrawn.


Several years ago when I was living in the north, I had to go to the community hospital. By the time I left I carried a large bag filled with medicines. I had told the doctor that I had a headache. He prescribed some pills. I told him I had problems with my sinuses and he prescribed more pills. When I told him I had a sore throat, he prescribed throat lozenges. When he heard me cough, I was told to take even more medicine. Finally  I told him I was sick to my stomach. He prescribed this liquid that looked like milk but tasted terrible. It was sure a good thing that I didn't have to pay for all these medicines.

To me that is not healing. If he had asked why I felt terrible, I would have probably told him that I had been drinking bean juice at a friend's house and had walked around the community without my coat on. It was February when this happened. I believe the doctor would have been more effective as a healer if he had convinced me to stop drinking bean juice or, at least, to put on my coat in the middle of winter. The doctor may have dealt with my health problems at the time, but my problems kept coming back until I smartened up and stopped this behaviour.

I often see governments acting like the doctor. Governments will see a problem in our communities and try to fix it with a program or service that addresses only that problem. After a number of years, our communities look like me when I was a patient. Our communities are carrying around a bag full of programs and services that have been developed to address specific illnesses but don't necessarily work together in harmony nor do they address the underlying causes of our problems.

In many ways, our communities have supported this approach in the past. When there are so many needs in a community, anything is better than nothing. Quite often, governments will use the "take it or leave it" approach so there is no chance for our communities to adapt these services to meet our individual needs.

I believe things are changing now in many communities. They have seen that, even with a bag full of programs in their communities, suicides are increasing, sexual assaults have increased and there is still nothing for the people to do. These communities are taking control over their futures and saying that we must find the causes of our illnesses, both as individuals and as communities, and heal those illnesses in ways that the communities choose to do so. In this way, they are shaking up that bag of "medicines" and making sure they work the way the communities want and that they are   blended together. Governments have been invited to participate in this new approach but it has been made clear that, if governments do not or cannot help in healing processes, it would be better if they just stood aside and got out of the way.

"Healing" is a term which is now heard a great deal, in reference to Aboriginal people and communities. As will be seen in this report, there is no single meaning given to the term "healing." Nonetheless, it is important to try to establish a common basis for understanding the term "healing". Aboriginal people and the governments (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) which work with them, all have a role to play in the healing process.

This report is intended to give the reader a sample of Aboriginal perceptions about healing, to help create a common understanding of healing and to establish the beginnings of a common language by which governments and Aboriginal people can productively discuss healing. Readers are encouraged to examine their own understanding of healing as part of this process. Perceptions and attitudes will differ. This makes it critical to ensure respect for the understandings and experience of others, in order to strengthen the possibilities for creating viable partnerships between governments and Aboriginal people.

The purpose of the project was thus threefold:

Fundamental questions were raised within this study which are meant to generate further dialogue and exploration about the process of healing and the roles of governments in that process. These questions also served to emphasize the complexity of the issue in the attempt to define healing and to determine specific factors which may be connected to the healing process.

Communities selected for this project demonstrated their willingness to participate and a commitment to the objectives of the project throughout the interview process. Their desire to heal their communities and their willingness to openly participate in another government study are revealed in the statements and comments made by those interviewed.

The challenge and the difficulty in writing this report reflect the task itself, which was to build a bridge of understanding between Aboriginal community members and non-Aboriginal persons around the concept of "healing". The challenge specific to the writing was to take information which was often expressed in a more circular, story-telling style, and present it in ways which will be understandable to non-Aboriginal people, who often employ a more linear and analytical style. The attempt has been to blend these two styles of communication throughout the report.

The Project Coordinator wishes to thank those who participated and shared the vision of creating an opportunity to work in partnership to develop healthy and responsible communities.


For this study, community members from selected Aboriginal communities, along with a small sample of government officals, were interviewed on the subject of healing. The selection of these Aboriginal communities was based upon the fact that they have taken concrete steps towards healing their communities. The report does not attempt or serve to represent the perspective or experience of all Aboriginal communities or their members, but rather to identify some patterns or philosophical understandings with respect to healing and the process of healing which are shared by these communities.

Site visits were conducted over a four-month period in five selected Aboriginal communities. Of these five selected communities, the Nuxalk First Nation (British Columbia), the Hollow Water First Nation (Manitoba), and the Nisga'a Nation (British Columbia) were designated as the primary communities for study. As a result, interviews were conducted in these communities on two separate visits. Grassy Narrows First Nation (Ontario) and the Gitksan Wet'suwet'en Nation (British Columbia) had interviews conducted in their communities during one site visit each. Iqaluit (Nunavut), Conne River First Nation (Newfoundland), and one Nation requesting not to be identified, were contacted by phone and mail for additional input.

The community asking to remain unidentified did so because they felt that their responses could be "pre-judged" by the readers since their community has experienced widespread media coverage in the recent past. They felt that if they remained anonymous, this would provide the reader with a greater opportunity to embrace the information more objectively.


The communities selected for participation were all known to the Project Coordinator. It was, however, imperative that the project be formally introduced and accepted through channels identified by the community. The Project Coordinator contacted known members of each community to ask for this direction. Once the channels of contact were identified, a letter about the project was drafted and sent to each community. Initially, eight communities were contacted by mail to request their participation. All agreed to participate. Due to travel budget constraints, however, three of the eight communities could only be interviewed by the Project Coordinator by telephone or mail. The limited scope of participation by these three communities reflects the need for any project of this nature to have resources available to ensure that each community be interviewed on-site for a minimum of two, four-day site visits. Although these communities were willing to participate in an internal interview process, in the end it became difficult for these communities to identify individuals who were trained to conduct interviews with community members without financial compensation for their time since, in every case, these individuals had other commitments in the community.

The Nuxalk Nation (Bella Coola), Hollow Water First Nation, and the Nisga`a Nation were visited twice during the project for a total of ten days each. This second opportunity reinforced the commitment and sincere interest to hear what people had to say. It also encouraged more community members to come forth since more trust was built over time. It further provided the opportunity for the Project Coordinator to make revisions to the questionnaire in order to generate more accurate information about the process of healing from a community perspective. In turn, community members could expand on what they had previously shared, creating the opportunity for greater participation and increased information exchange.

This approach reinforced the concept that communities must be full partners in this process if information for this report was to be drawn from the "expertise" of community members. Partnership in this process meant that participation was granted throughout the life of the project. A critical element towards promoting full participation was the opportunity for community members to decide how the study would be conducted in their community. Communities were asked to decide if and how they wanted to participate and how the interview process should be conducted. Community members were also asked to participate in the editing process by commenting on the drafts leading up to the final report.

It was also important to realize that this was a government-initiated project which, by its nature, would create invisible boundaries which have an impact on what information is actually received by the Project Coordinator. Without the full agreement of the hereditary Chiefs, elected leaders and key individuals from each community, it would not have been possible to have engaged the participation of so many band members. It was felt that it was critical to create an atmosphere where all parties involved would experience a sense of ownership in the process and outcome.

Each of the five communities selected for on-site interviews was asked to take an active role in selection of those to be interviewed and to assign someone from the community to assist the Project Coordinator in the interview process. This was to provide the opportunity for any follow-up which might have been necessary with individuals who were interviewed and to make the information exchanged in the interviews immediately available to the community for future planning and development.

Those individuals who were interviewed in the communities included Elders, youth, parents, political leaders, victims, offenders, and government employees. In total 121, individuals were interviewed. All interviews were voluntary; however, communities were initially asked to identify individuals to the Project Coordinator to ensure that a cross-section of the community would be included and a wide range of responses could be generated. Interviews were conducted individually and in groups, depending on availability of the individual being interviewed, the stated preference of location based on suitability for privacy, and the time available to conduct the interview. Participant input to how, where, and when the interview was conducted provided a greater opportunity for individuals to feel relaxed during the interview process.


The responsibility of the Project Coordinator, as the primary interviewer, was to set a comfortable tone during the interview process by ensuring that those interviewed understood the following:

As the project developed, more community members volunteered their time to be interviewed. This clearly reflected their enthusiasm and willingness to take part in discussing healing in their communities. Each person agreed to being audio-taped. However, due to the size or, in one case, age of the group being interviewed, a limited number of interviews were conducted more like workshops where questions were discussed in small groups and responses were recorded on paper. In all cases, written permission was granted in order that responses could be used in this report.

Interviews held with youth presented the Project Coordinator with a challenge not experienced with the adults. Youth are often naturally reluctant to speak to adults, particularly on subjects that can elicit feelings of vulnerability or raise issues which may have remained otherwise private. One group of youth, for example, was initially interviewed in a large group setting and only a few youth responded. To encourage responses from more of the youth, while ensuring their own sense of ownership to the study, options were provided about how the interview could be conducted, including whether to continue to conduct the interview in the large group, to break into smaller groups or to cancel the session. The group chose to break into smaller groups and put their thoughts on flip-chart paper in words or drawings. They divided into their own groups and emerged with a wealth of information for the project.

Interviews varied in terms of time and location. In keeping with the objectives of the project the Project Coordinator sought ways to elicit full participation by the community. Time and location for this type of interview process became critical to developing the opportunity for open and honest dialogue. It was recognized throughout this project that the Project Coordinator was an invited guest to the community and that it was the communities which knew best how to ensure the success of the project. Therefore, the length of time of an interview and location was either directed by the community project assistant or by those being interviewed. Interviews were conducted in Band offices, schools, homes, and community halls, and ranged in length from approximately fifty minutes to up to three hours.


Two open-ended questionnaires, reproduced in Appendix A, were developed for community members and government personnel respectively. The community questionnaire was revised part way through the project to stimulate further discussion, to clarify responses, and to elicit the best information possible. During the interview it was at the discretion of the interviewer to tailor questions to individual language and literacy needs. Questionnaires were made available to participants prior to the interview as a way to create a more friendly atmosphere and to reinforce that this project was not meant to be an evaluation or a piece of scientific research.

The questionnaires focused on the five specific objectives of this study. All respondents were asked to address the following:

The questions were designed to encourage people to share their perceptions and understanding about healing and healing activities taking place in their community. Individuals were also asked to consider healing activities developed for or offered to offenders and victims.


This study respected two levels of confidentiality: that of the individual and that of the community. All interviews were "confidential" in that no-one was asked to identify themselves on questionnaires or on audio-tape. It was felt that what was important was what was said and not necessarily who said it. Some participants have been identified within the text of this document by a particular grouping (eg. Elders, youth, offenders, government). The Project Coordinator, however, has tried to maintain the anonymity of individual participants throughout the report.

The communities, themselves, emphasized that community anonymity is essential to the success of a study of this nature and the degree of community anonymity must be agreed upon by the community and those conducting the study at the outset. Communities raised the concern that outsiders may not be able to remain objective about healing in the face of information they may have seen or heard about their communities in the media. There was also a shared perception that participating in these kinds of studies in the past has had political repercussions and may result in negative consequences at upcoming negotiations. The communities' requests to remain anonymous or not, in relationship to this study, should not be seen as their "hiding" information but rather as a natural reaction to their experiences with media or other government initiatives and studies.

To capture the essence of what was shared, selected comments made by both community members and government employees are quoted throughout the text of this report. Some comments are quoted verbatim while others, not accompanied by quotation marks, are paraphrased. The project relied heavily on maintaining confidentiality, and any information that identified an individual or specific community was removed from the report. Cultural practices or traditional information, not privy to outsiders, was also deleted from the text except in cases where those interviewed specifically requested that it be left in.

As an example, two community members during their interview raised concerns about the translation and interpretation on paper of activities or traditional practices which Aboriginal people have shared with those outside the community. They have requested that their experience and concern be presented in this document to illustrate why many Aboriginal communities are reluctant to share information.


Government officials also contributed information contained in the context of this report. Most of their responses were obtained by mail. A total of six interviews, however, were conducted in person. Of those who were interviewed in person, two were interviewed in the community in which they worked. It was decided that the views and opinions of federal and provincial government officials would be integrated throughout this study rather than forming a separate section or chapter because their views were so similar to those of Aboriginal community members.


Although this project was initiated by the Aboriginal Corrections Unit of Solicitor General Canada, the project design ensured that the community was, as previously discussed, a full participant in the process and an equal recipient in the spin-offs. To this end, each participating community was given an opportunity to review all drafts of the report and will receive all the information collected from the community either in writing or by audio-tape. The Project Coordinator also received permission from those interviewed to brief members of the community prior to leaving. This was done in order to provide community members with information which may be useful for continuing their work with respect to healing, and to making contact with other communities engaged in similar activities.

It is hoped that this report will not sit on a shelf, but will be used by both governments and communities. Too often reports are completed but little or nothing is done to ensure their useability. Each community involved with this study has been asked to identify a process for distributing this report and to add names to the report's mailing list. It was felt that these actions would foster a the sense of ownership and collaboration in bringing life to this document.


It is critical to keep in mind that all comments are those of individuals or groups and do not necessarily reflect the perception or belief of their entire community, or that of all Aboriginal people across North America. It is evident, however, that for purposes of this study there appear to be common perceptions and shared themes about healing and more general community development.

In the struggle to provide a working understanding or definition of healing, the comments are presented in the style or manner in which they were received from the individual or group interviewed. It is suggested that these styles of communication represent individual differences which are found in every community. There are those who are concise, as is evidenced by single sentence responses, and those who are more comfortable with a style similar to storytelling, as evidenced by the longer responses. Some of the responses are presented under theme headings in order to emphasize ideas or perceptions which may otherwise have been lost due to the length of some of the quotes.

The advantage of utilizing a wide selection of direct quotes throughout this report is to enable the report to speak to a broader audience. This presentation also serves to reinforce that successful community development lies in the ability to listen and to acknowledge that perceptions and ideas of individuals become the building blocks for a community. They provide us with themes and common threads which can both bind and move a community together.

This report will describe the communities' efforts to apply a healing, restorative approach to their problems. As much as possible, through the use of quotations, these sections will be told by the people themselves.


The people interviewed for this study expressed many thoughts about the process and the end result of healing. To some extent the emphasis or focus contained in these comments differed from one individual to the next, but what is more evident is their similarity, and how interrelated the various aspects are.

In the text that follows, specific aspects or meanings attached by various participants to the term "healing" are discussed separately. It is critical to note, however, that these aspects are not seen separately by the participants. Both government and non-government participants spontaneously listed a large number of factors when asked to define healing and what would be involved in the healing process. It was clear to them, as well as to the Project Coordinator, that these various factors or aspects were seen as connected and mutually dependent. Nonetheless, for purposes of this report, an attempt has been made to examine each of the more commonly mentioned aspects in turn, in order to enrich the reader's understanding of each.

This, however, does a disservice to the complexity with which people understand and express the issues. In their various ways the participants in this study are describing a complex process of community development. It will be seen in the chapters to follow that this community development process cannot proceed on a single level or within a single aspect of the individual or the community.


A healed community is people who can work together and play together. Now there are constant little wars going on, people needing to be better than the other by buying something so their neighbours will have to go out and buy it. There are a lot of people in the community, including myself, who do not know what is going on in the community because we have this belief that it is none of our business, and it is sad. If a community was healed the community could talk about these things, and people could feel free to reach out to other people for help.

When embarking upon a journey of healing, it is critical not only to understand the reasons or problems leading to this journey but also to know where you want to be at the end of the day. It could be argued that the end result of this journey is something which results in a substantial, sustained and positive change to what currently exists or reflects a solution to a problem or concern.

To imagine the end result of this journey provides a backdrop for articulating what healing in a community is about. Participants in this study shared their dreams, their visions of what they believe a healing or healthy community would look like. Examining these perceptions provides the first step in building a common understanding of healing.


Part of people getting involved in the community is dependent upon the example set by the leadership in the community. A government, elected or hereditary, which is supportive and involved in ensuring the effective functioning of services for and by the community creates an environment by which people want to become involved.


Another aspect of a healing or healthy community is people becoming involved with one another and with the community as a whole by establishing the trust, respect and concern for one another which makes community involvement natural and spontaneous.

This concept of "people getting along and getting involved in their community" could apply to or be used to describe almost any community within Canada, Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal. Creating a safe and healthy environment is a concern not unfamiliar to those who pick up the daily newspaper or watch the nightly news. The problem of how life is, versus how we want it to be, is a shared concern among all people in Canada. The desire to ensure that we each have a role to play in helping others, or improving conditions for our children, is a common theme regardless of nationality, geography or politics. Respect is the very core of this understanding.


Many people expressed the importance of youth and the view that a healing community will have set its youth on the right path through good parenting and the right teachings.


Another articulated component or element to the vision of a healing or healthy community revolves around the "tool" of communication: individuals being able to talk openly while still being heard. Being heard means that listening must take place at all levels within the community and governments.  One participant emphasized this component as part of their vision of a healthy community by providing examples of their personal struggle within their own community.


This perception is also connected to the aspect of communication. Many Aboriginal people have been taught not to express themselves verbally or to raise issues in public that may lead to conflict. A part of healing is often empowering individuals to "break their chains of silence" and speak openly and freely about how they feel and what concerns them. It can be a liberating experience which, when shared with others, makes everyone feel that issues are dealt with openly and not "behind closed doors".


In a healthy or healing community, people take responsibility, not just for themselves, but for the community. Trust is maintained, the norms and standards which a healthy community values are clear, and as a result, individuals in that community can each do their part to maintain those values.

The perceptions of Aboriginal community members and non-Aboriginal government representatives are strikingly similar. As one government employee described:

In the same vein, a community member states:

Although the language or terminology used by these two persons to describe their visions are different, the underlying message is the same. Both talk about a structure or infrastructure which promotes awareness, accountability, and opportunities for growth. Both draw a picture of an independent and confident community which is willing and able to address its problems and concerns by maximizing the use of internal resources.

It is likely that any of the comments quoted in this chapter would reflect the views of most people across Canada about what a healing or healthy community is. It is a common vision made up of parts or ingredients in which no one aspect is seen to stand alone.

What can be gained by this recognition that there is a common vision about the goal of developing healing or healthy communities is the possibilities it opens up to sensitize each of us to one another? This recognition may be one of the first steps to promoting further understanding about the role each individual, group, organization or government can play in healing Aboriginal communities. When these common threads can be drawn or connectedness articulated, and a greater sense of sensitivity to one another can be experienced, the options for the development of partnerships in productive and meaningful ways are increased. In short, people from different communities, cultures, or races can bridge their differences through the recognition of their similarities and common goals.

The dream or vision of a healthy or healing community lies within each individual, family, and community. As one community participant summed it up, "it comes through the spirit of the community where the community is friendly and helpful."


When you hear the word healing, inside you you feel good and there is hope for us and our people. I feel that healing sometimes can be just a word. We talk about it and we have gone through a lot but there hasn't been much response and they fall back to where they start. The only way I can define healing is to say that there is hope for us. When we talk about healing we forget to remember forgiveness. We have to empty ourselves and leave the past behind. The big word for me is hope for our people.


There are two different ways of looking at the definition of healing. The Anglo-Saxon terms it as healing of a wound the repairing of damage to the body. We tend to look at healing as a surface heal. From an Aboriginal perspective it goes much deeper. Healing in that context is not only healing of the body but the healing of the spirit, emotional healing, psychological healing that encompasses the total being rather than just at the surface. When I hear the term healing now I tend to think of it in a holistic fashion that instead of isolating different areas of concern or areas of the body that need healing I'm talking about psychological and physical. When I use the term healing or hear the word healing I consider it in the holistic fashion of both the mind and body.

(Non-Aboriginal RCMP)

In the last chapter, we looked at some of the tangible factors and aspects which those interviewed associated with a "healing community". In the present chapter, we will look at healing as a process. How does it unfold? Are there any common patterns to the way in which it unfolds? What mechanisms are involved?  

The interviews for this study reveal that in seeking to gain a better understanding about the process of healing in Aboriginal communities, it may assist government officials to turn their attention towards the concept of community development, whereby the fundamental steps in resolving problems are addressed by dealing with the underlying causes and not limited to a focus on symptoms.

Community development can be defined as a process of community action in which the people:

The underlying belief in community development is that the people themselves can improve their community by:

Community development is organization for action. It is a process whereby people learn how to help themselves. In theory, community development is a process which is driven by any community involved in taking action when a problem or concern is identified. The first benefit of community development is what happens to people as they work together in solving their own problems.
For individuals in a community engaged in this process of community development, healing naturally occurs. In building a common language between cultures, the terms or concept used to form a definition or strategy for community development can become synonymous with the concept of healing as defined or described by Aboriginal communities.


The word "healing" has been widely used to describe the changes that must take place within our society, and in particular, within Aboriginal communities. "Healing" for each of us seems to be culturally based and carries many definitions within the context of different languages. It is a word used frequently, but in many ways lacks a common definition which enhances our ability to work more collaboratively towards its end.

In spite of community members having very similar visions about what a healing community would look like, the most striking message prompted by these interviews was, that there is no single definition or description for "healing." And the most common response to the question about healing was that it was very difficult to answer.

What became evident was not that there was a single definition for healing but rather, a growing consensus of a vision and process for healing. For example, the general consensus among those interviewed was that healing starts "within the individual or with self". To heal as a community, it is necessary to heal oneself and family before the community. It was also agreed that to heal meant to obtain a sense of "wholeness" or "balance" by addressing all parts of one's life concurrently and not in isolation.

The holistic approach to healing is emphasized throughout the report. Spirituality is part of this approach, not a separate entity. For Aboriginal communities, as for many other cultures around the world, spirituality is the very foundation of their society and the relationships they have with each other. Spirituality concepts, however, are not easily transcribed to paper.


Consistent with the language of community development, many participants directly offered the view that healing was not a static state, but rather a process. In the next chapter, this report will attempt to explore further how this process unfolds. In the present chapter, however, we will begin with some of the language of what is involved in the process.


The following are some of the most commonly expressed ideas and factors offered by the participants. At least three aspects of the process of healing emerge from the interviews.


The general consensus among community members about how healing unfolds was that healing starts within the individual or with the self. From the individual, healing expands into the family. Finally, to heal as a community, the process moves from the individual and family to the community as a whole.

Community development rests in the hands of individuals coming together to take action to improve conditions in their community. But, before community issues can effectively be addressed, there has to be the capacity for individuals and families to address their individual problems and begin to resolve them.

Although healing finds its roots in the individual, this example emphasizes the importance of support and validation which must also come from outside the self. The more individuals involved in a process of healing, the greater the opportunity for creating an atmosphere of unity and growth. Healing is an interdependent process and the more persons involved, the greater the opportunities for change.

To begin the process of healing requires individuals to recognize and address the underlying causes of their problems which, to a large extent, will be the same as the underlying causes of the community's problems. It requires searching within before looking outwards. It means learning to take responsibility rather than getting trapped in "blame," which can easily occur if one looks to the outside for an explanation before looking within. The following comments further describe this concept of moving from within:

One important implication of this aspect of the process, as seen by Aboriginal people, is that to be effective, a community healing process cannot come from outside the community. A program that is imported into a community in the hopes that it will take root there is almost certainly going to fail. At the very least, a program must be adapted to the realities of the community and the individuals inside it. Ideally, however, a program grows out of the community itself and the processes which are already at work there. 


The second aspect of the healing process is balance. It was agreed that to heal meant to obtain "wholeness" or "balance" by addressing all parts of one's life concurrently and not in isolation. The healing process in Aboriginal communities is a process which encompasses all aspects of one's life: physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual.

As was seen in the last chapter, balance and wholeness also operate on the community level. The substantive aspects of community healing as they were referred to in the last chapter included involvement, trust, responsibility, positive parenting, openness, communication, and clear expectations, all of which must be re-established, and be in harmony with one another, if the community as a whole is to be balanced and healing.

Some community participants described "balance" in the following way:

This process of coming into "balance" or "wholeness" was often described by community members as a spiritual process, or a process in which the return to traditional spiritual beliefs and practices was an integral part of healing. The revival of traditional practices has prompted many outside resources, such as media and governments, to study the meanings of these rituals in order to gain an understanding about Aboriginal people. As previously mentioned, many community members have raised concerns that disclosure of sacred beliefs and practices in some circumstances has led to more misunderstanding and created further alienation between the cultures.

In this project, those who were interviewed were asked not to reveal or discuss any specifics with respect to traditional practices but rather to describe what their experiences in the process of healing have meant to them. Without compromising this intent, the following quote was offered by a community member who experiences healing by achieving balance utilizing practices from both systems:

This comment and those shared by the other community members illustrate that the control and drive of one's healing lies deep within the individual, becoming stimulated and nourished from the outside. It is a whole experience which cannot be addressed in parts, and which is applicable to healing the family or the community.


Participants reinforced the concept that the experience of healing must be addressed "holistically," that it cannot be addressed in parts. Another example of this was in the shared assumption that the healing process, to be effective, needed to get away from the emphasis on discrete "programs", such as substance abuse treatment programs and sexual abuse counselling programs.

It was noted earlier that one implication of the theme, "healing from within," was that programs imported from outside the community, and not at the very least adapted to the realities of that community, were at risk of failing. The "programs-to-process" theme seems to go further and suggest that the most effective approach of all is one of community development from within.

The need to address healing from a holistic framework may best be articulated by one community member who, when asked whether programs should be targeted to specific groups, stated:

People often miss the obvious and search for new and innovative ways to deal with problems in their communities. Often, communities do not take credit, or are not given credit, for what they have or for what they have done and believe that they need to find new approaches to problems. But often, these problems can be addressed simply or through the strengthening of resources which already exist in the community. Policy-makers must recognize that healing processes will involve a range of activities, from strengthening existing community resources to taking risks with new and innovative approaches where they are needed. The process of assessing the community's options and deciding what to do is, in itself, critically important and highly useful.

Training could be another avenue for encouraging the transition from "programs-to-process" and for taking down the barriers which exist currently between governments and communities in service delivery and design. Joint training can be especially useful: that is, using the same training session to bring together people who come from all different fields and agencies, but who all have -or could have - some role to play in healing the community. The experience of joint training for developing community action emphasizes strategies (not programs), cooperative action, and a continuum of care. People need different services at different times, and meeting their needs properly requires the combined effort of many different players, agencies and levels of government. It is now time to create a path for developing services and programs which are client-driven and not "funding-driven".

The following comments reflect on the teachings of many Elders, which suggest that solutions or growth lie in the experience. Without the experience, without the pain it becomes more difficult to recognize the joy or even perhaps the experience. To turn a negative into a positive is a gift for creating opportunities towards building healthy and productive lives, in that there is recognition through these experiences of knowing what one wants to achieve and clues to how one might get there.

These comments were made by young and old, parents, caregivers, and leaders. The theme or common thread once again is that healing comes from within and moves outward, starting with the individual, moving through the family, and on into the community. 

In this struggle to define this complex process of healing some participants offered a compelling description through visual experiences. It is perhaps from the following response provided by a youth that healing was most vividly expressed.

"Healing is an eagle flying free and letting go of everything."


Healing begins at a very small level, it begins with you and works its way up. The process has begun.

For Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal governments alike, determining when a community is ready to heal or ready to take on the task of healing is a critical first step in bringing about change. In this chapter, we will explore some of the signs or correlates of "readiness". We will also examine the question of who determines when or whether a community is ready to heal, and ready perhaps for some assistance in healing. In the next, and closely related chapter, we will look at some of the ways in which the healing process has been seen to begin in certain communities.

"Readiness", as it is most commonly referred to, has become the barometer for concluding whether an individual or community has the ability to recognize and deal with the problem; readiness also involves taking responsibility for or ownership of the problem, and meeting the challenges for creating change. It is fair to say that determining "readiness" means to take into account the opportunity for change which is present for a particular individual, family or community.


Perceptions of when a community is ready were varied among those who were interviewed. There was consensus, however, about the factors critical to evaluating "readiness". These include the degree of or significance in the recognition of problems, the motivation to change, and the willingness to take responsibility for making things happen. These could only be determined by and within the community, and not by an outside resource.


Community members emphasized that a community is ready to undertake initiatives towards healing when there is an awareness of what problems exist and the acknowledgement by individuals within the community that the current conditions or way of living in the community are not acceptable or tolerable any longer.


As a result of the recognition of problems, changes in behaviour patterns begin to reflect positive actions taken by the community to assume control over their own affairs.

A Youth participant strikes at the very core of motivation by stating:

As well, another community member points out, a community is motivated and ready when community members acknowledge that the future lies in the changes which must occur today.


Thus, people begin to take responsibility for the community, and to influence the behaviour of others, as their awareness increases or grows.

Many of the youth interviewed echoed these thoughts. Their comments were brief, however, they offer us some key words and phrases which can be used for developing a common language in evaluating the degree or state of "readiness" present in a community.

Although these quotes are provided separately the underlying theme rests with this first quote which speaks to the importance of building or maintaining trust:

Another approach to the same question was offered by a different group of youth from the same community. Their description suggests that communities are ever-changing, and that an indicator for change can be either knowing what you do want for your community or knowing what you don't want! 

Either frame of reference reflects a degree of readiness, surfacing critical factors which serve to bring about change. These factors which are often felt or experienced at the personal level become generalized throughout the community.


Although these thematic areas serve to provide a framework for assessing readiness, who determines readiness remains a question. Again it raises the issue of whether readiness is determined by the community or from an outside resource. 


"Core groups", as they have been referred to, are as varied as the communities themselves. In some cases core groups are age or gender specific, others are mixed and glued together by a common skill, need, or mandate. The crucial element which makes these core groups different from any other group in the community is that they have in some way identified and articulated a problem or set of problems in their community which need to be addressed. This is also a group which is prepared to take a risk and initiate some method or approach to dealing with the problem(s). Thus, it is sometimes this core group which, in effect, determines when the community is ready.

For example, one community began their process of healing as a result of an initiative by one adult working with youth to develop a youth group. Part of this initiative was to create opportunities for the youth to be trained in how to coordinate activities and to take responsibility for carrying them out. It was through this process that adults and Elders were confronted by the youth to stop the abuse of drugs and alcohol, suicide, family violence, sexual abuse and other forms of victimization occurring in the community. The youth asked the adults and Elders to become positive role models for the children in the community and those yet to be born. Since this initiative there has been a dramatic shift in the social problems present in the community today. Although it has not eliminated all the problems, it has decreased the use of alcohol and drugs, and reduced the number of incidents of suicide and abuse.

Another community experiencing a high rate of gun-related violence initiated a community gun control program sponsored by the elected leadership and a small group of community people. Although there was great resistance to initiate this policy, the persistence and determination of these few individuals resulted in opportunities for people to begin feeling safe within the community and to identify the causes related to the violence. As one would expect, this led to other initiatives in the community aimed at improving conditions which will lead to a healthier community environment.

The experiences of Alkali Lake, which have been well documented in the media, provided both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities with the opportunity to observe the influence one individual can have within an entire community.

A more recent approach, which has been initiated by a number of different communities, is a process driven by one person or a small group of people interested in strengthening the skills and resources already in existence within the community itself. The success of any community development initiative rests in maximizing the use of the resources presently in existence in the community. The individuals involved in these initiatives are a combination of band staff and community members at large who have sought training to develop a team approach for responding to community concerns and problems.

A critical point in each of these examples is that readiness is most often determined by a person or a group of people in the community who decide that a change in the community is required and decide that action must be taken to begin the healing process. This notion challenges the belief often held that the whole community must in some way demonstrate readiness and that there must be community consensus to affect any change.

Another community member expressed that the "core group" or motivating force in the community were the children: that although the initial awareness of the problem may have arisen within one individual, it was the children collectively who led the community to the solution.

All of these examples serve to illustrate and support responses gathered from community members during this study which suggest that readiness is in fact experienced as a result of one or more individuals in the community wanting to effect change or to heal. It is this collective effort that determines readiness. In this way, the presence or existence of a core group becomes another measurement for determining the readiness of the community.

A government employee who was interviewed for this study states:

It is the presence of a core group which determines the readiness of a community. In other words, "how" and "by whom" readiness is determined lies in the assessment of the motivation and responsibility taken by a few people.


Outside governments must, of course, gauge a community's readiness to heal at the time when they are asked to make decisions about putting resources into that community. But are there other roles for outside government in terms of community readiness?

In the words of one government employee:


In determining the readiness of a community, the question of whose perception of readiness is accurate and acceptable becomes a critical element in the process. A number of variables can have an influence on how readiness is determined or evaluated. Not only do the attitudes and values of those evaluating the community become variables in this process; so does the way in which questions about readiness are raised or presented to community members or other critical sample groups.

In this section, examples are given from this study to show the importance of considering how one poses questions which will be used to determine readiness. The following examples illustrate that asking a question in several different ways can provide the opportunity to reach a greater understanding of an individual's response and perception. This technique can also serve to reveal a consistency among different community members' responses which might not otherwise have been apparent.

On a number of separate occasions during this study it became evident how people's perceptions varied on this issue of "readiness."

One example is taken from a group interview with people who had grown up in the same community during the same time period, were friends or relations, and followed a similar path in their involvement with the community. Although the expectation may have been that their responses would be similar, their answers to the same question were in fact strikingly different.

What we learn from this is that individual responses are dependent upon a number of factors or variables which cannot be ignored if an outside source is questioning whether a community sees itself ready for healing. Variables such as age, status or position in the community, gender, time of day, and current issues or priorities facing an individual at the moment of inquiry must be taken into consideration in the final analysis. It should also be recognized that some individuals felt that they were answering this question by relating it directly to their own life experience(s), whereas others responded by drawing on the experience(s) of the community.

The question, itself, and how a question is asked, may influence what information is generated. For example, one individual's initial response to the question, "When do you feel the healing process begins" was:

This statement may lead a listener or reader to one of many possible conclusions. One such conclusion could be that this individual does not see that the community is ready. However, the communities selected for the project are communities which have been identified for their progress or movement towards change. Therefore, the question was posed another way to the same individual to clarify and confirm their perception. The question was presented: "When did this community begin to heal?"

This second answer begins to offer a different picture of the community. The question may have been presented in language which may have influenced the response by suggesting that this community has begun to heal. However, the individual was responding based on experience in the same community referred to in the first question. In order to account for this difference in responses, a third question was asked: "How do you determine readiness?"

Being attentive to the subtle changes in languaging can create the opportunity for the interviewer to ensure that the responses given accurately reflect what the interviewee is trying to convey. Where English is the interviewee's second language, it becomes equally important to be aware that meanings attached to individual words may differ.


The state of readiness is a complex yet revealing condition. While it is necessary to address it, it is equally important to be aware of the variables which can be present in determining the degree of readiness or the opportunities for readiness. For example, if the assessment of readiness is focused on a program or project which has no prior history or is new to the social market, it may be difficult to determine readiness in the face of having little or nothing to compare it to.

Posing questions about readiness should serve to generate information about an individual's or community's ability to carry out activities or projects. It can further assist in clarifying the project or activity goal(s) and the steps necessary in developing an action plan for completing the process. In short, raising the question of readiness should serve to encourage communities to take the initiative to deal with their own problems.

This chapter has attempted to review the condition of readiness and to create an evaluative framework which can assist communities and outside agencies. This framework is meant to be a tool for creating an opportunity for dialogue between and within those parties responsible for the development and operations of programs and projects.


The ultimate purpose of our life is the vision we have to offer our people. What we need is an overall vision that everyone will wish to follow, whether Native or non-Native. We have to realize that all the problems that we are facing as a people are universal in scope. We have to start living outside of today's parameters, which restrict or confine who we are and give us only a tunnel vision. We have to redefine our present lifestyle. And once we have re-established ourselves as a people, we will be able to take on any trial that this world can throw at us. We are a strong people today and when we have dealt with ourselves we will become a very powerful people.

The previous chapter examined signs which indicate the "readiness" of a community to make changes, and explored the issue of who determines when a community is ready to begin a healing process. In this chapter, we will examine some of the processes which appear to be associated with the successful beginnings of change.


The vision described in the quote which introduces this chapter reinforces the view of many of those interviewed that the healing process begins when the community or an individual moves from a "cerebral" or thinking level about healing to a "visceral" or actual motivation towards a process. In other words, the process involves moving from identifying and acknowledging the problem(s) to determining how and what to do to change or resolve the problem(s).

The overwhelming belief is that, to effect change, the impetus must come from within oneself or from within the community. This is not to suggest that outside resources are not required for communities to develop and implement healing activities. Rather, the individual or community is responsible to determine what activities or plan shall be developed and implemented and what priority should be placed on these activities. And the plan is based on the vision.


Once the vision and the belief has crystallized in the minds of members of the community, communities which appear to be successful in moving their healing process forward experience the beginning of a community development process, a process of learning to work together to make the best use of all available resources.

As one community member stated:

The suggestion here is to create a healing environment which, the same informant said, is designed:

In short, this informant, like so many others interviewed, said that Aboriginal people have to start learning how to work together to break down the barriers that are keeping them apart. Outside influences, such as governments, cannot direct this process. It involves examining attitudes, values, and beliefs from within. As one government employee stated:

"It is movement from a belief to a process."


The responses offered by those interviewed indicate that healing, or the process of healing, was seen to begin when specific activities or events took place that were recognized as having a restorative or healing effect. These activities are as varied as the problem(s) and communities themselves. However, most of these activities involve self-exploration, community support, and a spiritual journey.

One community member provided a poignant example of how an activity may start with one agenda and end with another, or something much more intense. The example shows how one activity can lead to further recognition or clarification of problems and ultimately, to solutions or resolutions. This example captures the essence of how these activities support the process of healing. It also acknowledges that with further understanding or recognition of problems, the challenges of meeting the needs in the community and moving in directions that are not shared by the entire community become manifested:

The statements made by these community members further demonstrate that healing is perceived to begin as a result of one or more individuals taking steps to recognize a problem and change a part of their life which has created pain within them and their communities. They have identified indicators or cues which ready a community for change, and begin to design activities which support and nurture that change.

These indicators include the experience, and acknowledgement of loss of self-esteem and self-worth, "starvation of the spirit", loss of cultural identity or rootedness, loss of visioning or goal-setting, and the lack of understanding of how systems work and how they can utilize resources to more effectively meet their needs. Although this is not an exhaustive list of indicators or cues, it does provide a point of reference from which people can begin to design activities which can either deal directly with the issue or can serve to stimulate or motivate further change.

These responses reflect the diversity of events which prompted the process of healing to begin. Again, some of these responses were offered by people from the same community, and yet their perception remains different as to when and how their community began healing.

In one community, change came as a result of funding to establish a community addictions prevention program under the National Native Alcohol & Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP), a program of Health Canada. According to one community member:

Participants in this study were asked to identify the kind of activities or programs which they felt had contributed to the healing in their community. When asked if these programs were aimed at a particular group or segment of the community, the overwhelming response was that activities and programs were really targeted at everyone, although it was recognized that some activities and programs were gender- or age-specific. The participants were clear, however, that programs or activities serving one target group generally served other groups either directly or indirectly.


Healing activities specifically described by participants in this study included:


One informant offered an insightful view about how both community members and strangers to the community can see when a community may need healing and where healing should begin:

"Whatever the conditions in any community, it will be the children who act out those conditions and so when you go into a community you need just to watch the children."

Often the ideas of youth are overlooked because they are seen by some as being self-centred, self-indulgent and the cause of many of the problems in the community. Youth, however, are part of the community and often see the same problems in the community as adults. They often arrive at the same, or similar, approaches for dealing with those problems. If one examines the lists of activities in support of healing proposed by youth interviewed as part of this study, it becomes apparent that they share many of the same views for improving the community's spirit as the adults. The youths' list included:

When asked what groups were needed to improve the healing process, one group of youth identified the following groups as being critical to improving or maintaining the healing in their community:

As mentioned in the previous chapter, people often miss the obvious successes and search for new and innovative ways to deal with problems in their communities. An example of this can be drawn from a statement made one of the youth interviewed in this project:

These kinds of "healing" initiatives have been present in communities for some time. Programs such as "night hoops" are structured recreational opportunities for youth to: refine their socialization skills and developing their coordination, explore what they value and what they believe, and feel a sense of belonging by giving them a choice to participate. These programs, in practical terms, pass on the values and norms set by communities, for example, by emphasizing that drinking is not acceptable or "cool", by demonstrating an alternative form of entertainment which is acceptable.

Many communities do not take credit for what they have or for what they have done. They believe, or have been told, that they need to find new approaches to problems that are actually best addressed through these simple and practical means or by the strengthening of resources which already exist in the community.

Another opportunity which was capitalized on by design of this project came when communities were asked to acknowledge and articulate what they have and what they have done. It provided the time to reflect on what is working and the accomplishments achieved over time.

All of the activities which are mentioned in this chapter support the healing process in communities. When a community begins to heal and sees the positive results of such activities, the community can and wants to take on more activities. This is a critical point in time. Once a community begins the healing process, at a pace determined by the community, it is critical that it not be faced with unnecessary barriers to continued development.


Offenders have the urge to change their ways of living as an offender, and victims get over their fear of other people and spend more time with the community, if both offenders and victims are included in the healing process in the community.

Native Youth

We have seen that healing touches on and has relevance for virtually every aspect of Aboriginal communities. Yet it seems to have particular relevance for matters related to crime, and the way in which society deals with crime.

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians alike have expressed concerns about the way the criminal justice system works. Among the most frequently voiced criticisms are that it is ineffective in preventing crime or recidivism. It is too slow. It is too lenient (or too harsh!). It "takes over" and it takes away the victim's voice, the offender's accountability, and the community's legitimate wish to deal with its problems. It is too oriented towards the offender (or too oriented towards the victim!). Finally, it punishes the act but fails to treat the offender, address underlying causes, or restore the damage done.

When the participants in this study were asked to discuss how "healing" related to victims and offenders, their responses, in effect, described an alternative means of community justice, one which they felt would address, at least in part, all of the above criticisms of the criminal justice system. "Healing" was seen by the participants to be a summary term for describing an ideal community response to crime. In this chapter, we will explore the participants' views of how a community justice model, based on healing, would look and how it has begun to work in certain communities.

For this study, participants were asked to comment on victims and offenders involved in any type of crime, either against the person or property. Because the current focus in most communities is on victims and offenders of sexual abuse, many of the comments reflect this. These comments, however, could apply to most dehumanizing situations.


Perhaps most importantly, it was the view of almost every person interviewed that community healing, where criminal activity is one of the major causes of pain, must include both victims and offenders. A healing-based community justice model starts from the recognition that both offender and victim are part of the same community. Each victim and each offender is also part of a family. What affects the offender and the victim will also affect families, as well as the community as a whole. Communities involved in healing processes still consider an offender to be an integral part of the community regardless of his or her actions. It is seen as a community responsibility to deal with the offender's actions and the underlying causes of his or her criminal behaviour in the community.

The term "community", when used by Aboriginal Peoples, is an inclusive term. When it is reported that the community is providing an alternative to prison for an offender, the community by definition can often include the victim, the victim's family, the offender, the offender's family and all others who feel they have a role to play in the process.

Aboriginal communities recognize that victims and offenders are both dealing with pain and that, without minimizing the importance placed on the protection and special needs of victims, the pain felt by both parties has to be addressed.

Treating the individual therefore is only a part of the process, even though healing must start within the person him- or herself. Healing must be experienced in a holistic way, whether individually or collectively. This may mean that healing takes place in the individual, the family, or the community as a whole, or all three levels at once. The ultimate objective of healing is to effect change within the family, extended or immediate, and the community at large.

Community members stressed the need for quality care and treatment of both the victim, offenders, and families as essential to breaking the cycle of abuse. Perhaps one of the most compelling interviews during this study was with a fifteen-year-old girl who revealed that she is both a victim and an offender. It is her experience which emphasizes the need to include both victims and offenders in a process of healing if the cycle is to be broken and the number of assaults or violations reduced.


The following comments reflect the ideas and understandings about how community-based healing functions and why it is such a viable option. As is the style of this report, the comments are presented in the "thematic" sections to assist the reader in identifying critical points towards the development of such an approach.


For most people, prison is not seen as an effective building block towards healing, as it does nothing to recreate a balance between the victim and offender. This view was shared by people in all communities taking part in this study and could reflect not only an underlying cultural value of the community but also the reality that most offenders have been, or are still, victims themselves.

"Healing" alternatives to jail or prison and to other aspects common to the mainstream justice system were also seen as preferable because they actually sought to treat the causes of the offending behaviour, and to act more quickly and more directly.

When asked to weigh treatment programs offered in the community against incarceration as a way to deal with offenders, the preferred forms of treatment were programs developed by and delivered in the communities. Incarceration is seen as an option for dealing with offenders but, in most cases, it is seen as the last resort. One youth put it this way:

Other participants echoed this sentiment that community-based healing programs are more effective in reaching the offender:


It was suggested earlier that many Canadians feel that the criminal justice system is either "too soft" or "too harsh". Some people believe it is both: that it severely punishes a few offenders, while failing to do anything at all to prevent crime, or to force most offenders to deal with their problems or face the harm that they caused their victims. The participants in this study felt that a healing-based approach showed promise of restoring the proper balance for all - offender, victim, and community.


The sometimes conflicting issues of protection and support of victims remain paramount to the process of healing in the minds of Aboriginal people. The question both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities are challenged with is: how does a community physically protect victims, particularly if the treatment of choice is community-based, while maintaining a focus on bringing victims and offenders together in working towards a resolution?

Through the interview process, the issue of the protection of victims was raised within the context of the question. Although comments made by community members did not specifically address how a community physically protects victims, they did reinforce that keeping people in the community allows the opportunity for family to participate and for victims and offenders to feel supported.

Not surprisingly, it was also pointed out that the existing criminal justice system often falls short of providing support and protection to victims and their families. Accounts offered by two victims, although different in perception, remind the reader that the responsibility for the protection of victims and their families lies within society, and includes the existing criminal justice system and those systems or programs which are being created to compliment it.


Many participants offered the view that a community healing approach was actually "harsher" on offenders than was jail, in the sense of the pain and difficulty involved in admitting your guilt to your community. Being incarcerated may merely encourage the offender to externalize feelings and concentrate on the unfairness of the correctional system:

A community healing approach often involves encouraging the offender to openly admit responsibility and to face the community:

In balance with the view that the community must take responsibility for healing the experience between victim and offender, an adult victimized as a child, reflected the other side of the process. The individual must take responsibility for his or her actions and feelings:

This individual, in referring to taking responsibility for actions, is not suggesting that victims take responsibility for the act which violated them. Rather, for individuals, whether victims or offenders, taking responsibility means taking control for their own feelings. Deciding how they want to deal with these feelings can place one back in charge of one's own life, thereby protecting and supporting one from further re-victimization. A case in point, as this individual and another community member point out:


Corrections personnel know that one of the most difficult obstacles to the successful reintegration of offenders is their social isolation and lack of pro-social supports in the community. Ironically, it is also typical for victims to feel alienated and isolated, first by their victimization, and then by the criminal justice system's processes. The participants in this study placed strong emphasis on the need for the community to support both offender and victim as part of a healing-based model.


Finally, a healing approach was seen to have benefits for the entire community. The balance restored between victim and offender also helps restore the overall community balance. More importantly, perhaps, the whole process shows the community that it can develop and give life to its own solutions.

Throughout the interviews, participants shared that Aboriginal people generally believe that everyone is basically good. The western system of justice, which has developed from a `punishment' modality, does not promote opportunities to learn how to behave and to bring things into balance. Traditional Aboriginal instruction taught people to know how to behave in concert with family so there is harmony and balance. A person is always a part of community. As it has been described, healing in the community often involves recapturing those teachings and values which highlight the good in all human beings and stress the need to maintain harmony within the individual, family and community. The re-affirmation of those values allows both victims and offenders to deal with their issues and to be supported in the changes they are making. Part of this support or recognition is sanctioned through cultural practices, and by jokes and visual disapproval being stopped.

The focus on resolution and restitution between the victim and offender is more accessible at the community level. It provides the opportunity to enhance self-esteem and self-worth in ways which allow both the victim and offender to feel a part of their community once again. As two offenders from the same community put it:

When asked the question about how a community deals with both victims and offenders within a healing context, an Elder made the following statement and requested that it be included in this report without changes.


A critical part of healing lies in our recognizing our strengths and in re-claiming our lives through the development of our communities.

The question raised earlier in this report is whether healing within an Aboriginal context may be best understood as a natural outcome of community development. The patterns and directions described within the text of this report would lead one to assume so. It is with this in mind that one is asked to consider whether the process of community development is the common language which communities and government can speak with respect to healing.

This chapter will attempt to go further in developing the common language of healing and community development; it will also suggest that new ways of assessing or measuring the impact of a more holistic and developmental approach may become necessary.


Community development is a process of community action. The fundamental basis of community development is found in the community's ability to organize, priorize, plan, and implement steps to respond to an issue or a shared problem which has been identified by members of the community. This approach maintains that people are more important than projects. In other words, in order to develop healthy communities, people must have the capacity and opportunity to work together to make decisions and to take action on problems or issues which are mutually important to them.

The community development approach engages community members in finding resources needed to solve problems. It motivates people to act and, collectively, becomes a backdrop to develop problem-solving skills and encourage cooperation. Community development creates options in a community by removing the impediments which may hinder the expression of self-will and self-worth. So too, healing activities open doors to a number of options in a community by virtue of the kind of problems or issues which are associated with the need to heal. In whatever definition one uses for "healing", the common thread speaks to "making something better" or "helping that which hurts". If someone or something is not in balance or not doing well, confidence and esteem are compromised.


Outsiders to a community can play a useful role in the community development process, but for the outcome to be successful, the community must maintain control. The critical factors in promoting community development initiatives require that outside agencies or interest groups support activities by:

As one participant shared:

It has been suggested throughout this study that the answers or resolutions to problems come from within the community and that the leadership in the community must play a vital role as spokespeople in promoting healing initiatives with governments and other outside resources and in impressing upon them the need to act in a holistic manner.

As reflected upon by a government employee:

For example, Aboriginal communities, in addressing the abuse of alcohol and drugs, see the solution to their problems of abuse as involving many aspects of the community, including education, health, economics, social services, justice, language & culture, and spirituality. Except for spirituality, the other aspects are mandates of specific departments within either the federal or provincial governments or both. Communities wanting to address substance abuse, therefore, are often required to deal with the issues in a piece-meal approach if they want government funding. The piece-meal approach has unfortunately proven ineffective. There are few opportunities for communities to bring all these pieces together and to have them work in concert according to community demands.
One community member summarized the effect of these government policies and mandates as follows:


Community development and healing, when successful, are profound, complex processes which are difficult to "measure" in concrete terms, especially in the beginning. Nonetheless, it is necessary and desirable to take measurements from time to time, and so it is important to address the question of how to measure changes. In the ideal world, of course, this process of measuring and evaluating how changes occur will help everyone to better understand what works and what does not.

To determine the impact of community development as it relates to the process of healing, participants were asked to tell "how their communities have been affected by efforts to heal themselves". The common thread was that positive change had occurred in each community as a result of community initiatives which were organized and directed by the community.

One participant's response described how change occurred and how it can be measured:

In measuring change by "how far one has come", one has to recognize the importance or significance of small steps, not just the large ones. A common human failing is looking for the major change, or the "big stuff", and thereby missing the more subtle events or changes which may have a more permanent or long-standing effect. Understanding and acknowledging how it was for an individual, family, or community is critical in determining how far one has come. The key to measuring the extent of change, or the success of healing, in a community is to acknowledge and place in perspective the large and small gains made by the individual, the family and the community.

Some participants measured the impact of community development initiatives by recognizing the changes within and among individuals in the community. These changes can be seen in their accomplishments in personal self-growth and the influence that community members began to have on one another through increased participation in activities in workshops or community activities:

It is all too natural for people to have a need to see changes occur quickly. As in the example with weight loss, it has been proven that the more lasting effects are accomplished through a slow and often gruelling experience. In other words, weight which is lost quickly usually returns quickly.

This is often the case with changes in the community. Because the most lasting results occur if the process is deliberate and well thought out, the visible changes are often very subtle in the beginning. In fact sometimes they are unrecognizable until later in the process when they often appear as sudden changes. One implication of this is that Aboriginal people and governments must resist the temptation to cry failure or give up when no immediate results are apparent or can be measured in the usual ways.

Participants in this study acknowledged that sometimes they do not "see" the impact of such initiatives but rather feel that things do move too slowly. Generally speaking, one does not take stock of what has changed until asked to do so. In this study some of the participants were able to describe the change readily. Others had to think for some time, and still others were prompted by the experiences of the Project Coordinator who recalled events which were perceived as contributing factors to change within a community.

In numerous trips to these communities over the past ten years, the Project Coordinator has been able to observe that the impact or change has been significant. The environment in and around the community now reflects a sense of pride and confidence not evident in the earlier years.

As previously mentioned, change is often subtle. However, it can be measured, as one participant suggested, by observing the behaviour of the dogs living in the community. In one community where healing has been taking place, dogs walk around wagging their tails, holding their heads up high, and are generally more friendly towards one another. Although this example may not appear to be significant, it is seen by some as a very accurate measure of positive change within the communities, particularly some of those participating in this study.

It was observed during earlier trips to this same community, before the healing had begun, dogs would spend their time fighting one another and scrounging for food and shelter. They were not particular to how they kept themselves even though their instinct was to continually groom themselves for cleanliness. In fact, community members and visitors were often hesitant to step out of the car for fear of being attacked by dogs.

Healing does not take place at the same time and at the same rate for all people in a community. Assessments of whether change is taking place must not rely on observing the same process or rate of change in everyone. However, it is important to recognize the movement to change, as well as actual change, regardless of how small or extensive it is.

Measuring the impact of the healing process in communities is not an easy task. It reinforces the concept that change or healing is initially a very personalized experience. It occurs at varying stages and can be described or perceived in numerous ways.

A holistic healing process challenges many of the standardized tools which are designed to measure or evaluate programs or projects by raising the question of how to interpret subjective information through the use of objective means. It further raises the question of whether standardized tools can be used effectively to measure change in communities where traditional practices are used as part of the process.

One government employee commented that:

Some other participants offered their own measures for evaluating healing in very brief terms:


As stated earlier, comments made by youth are often the most compelling yet, very often, are treated as less credible than those made by adults. Yet, when they are listened to, youth can be as articulate in their own fashion as both adults and Elders and can show a depth of understanding about the healing process. This is probably due to the fact the youth experience the same pain that adults go through when they finally begin the healing process. Not only is there pain, but the speed at which change takes place in and the complexity of their lives is unparalleled in other generations.


Recognition of personal self-worth is central to the process of identifying the critical elements which contribute to change in a community. A natural outcome of this recognition is that individuals, families, and communities begin to take responsibility for their actions. They become more involved, and accountable to themselves and others. One way to reinforce the value in ownership is by engaging community members at large into the consultation process, thereby expanding the network and creating a greater opportunity for finding solutions. In essence, through this process the community remains in charge of its development. The responses of three participants elaborated on this:

This Chapter has attempted to explore some of the ways in which healing may be understood as a process of community development. In building a common language and defining the role of government in the healing of Aboriginal communities, perhaps our greatest strength lies in our ability to identify our similarities rather than differences.

A recent statement made by Chief Leonard George from the Burrard Indian Band at a swearing in of "new Canadians" may capture the essence of this concept best:


Healing has always been taking place, it is more recent that it has become more visible. Society today would like to be able to put their finger on, `oh, that is how it began!' But it began long before when our Elders told us what is coming in the future through our prophecies. So the healing process was always there, it was just that there were not very many of us who were visible in our own healing, most of us were swimming in our own devastation, our own destruction, our own pain, and our own self-pity. Only now is it becoming more visible.

In this chapter, we will take a closer look at the role which non-Aboriginal governments can play in the healing and development of Aboriginal communities. The question which may be raised is: "How can departments create mandates or policies which can offer flexibility in addressing and supporting these initiatives in a more comprehensive or holistic manner, without compromising the need to maintain some semblance of organization for addressing each of these areas nationally or provincially?"

It is probably fair to speculate that the current "lack of fit" between government mandates and community needs was not the original intent of any mandate or policy put forth by government. What happens to prevent government intentions from being effectively translated into action? What are the barriers to creating outcomes which result in healthier and safer communities?

Governments' desire to assist communities in a process of healing requires that government initiatives reflect the fundamental principles and elements of successful community development. This is essential in order for governments to become more responsive to communities' efforts and in so doing, to experience success in fulfilling their own mandates. 

In the quotes which follow, it will be seen that a number of different possible roles for government are envisaged by Aboriginal people and government officials alike. These roles are variously described as "advocacy", "partnership", "support", "encouragement", "technical assistance", and so on. Regardless of the role governments will eventually play in community healing processes, there is a protocol, or set of principles, that governments should recognize and adhere to in any relationship, particularly in relation to community development. These principles include:

If one accepts these principles, governments would then take on more of the role of an advocate, which would involve working with the community to encourage, support, and to make available technical assistance and information where requested. The principles of advocacy, as listed above, suggest that outside resources should act as role models by demonstrating a style of leadership which supports the fundamental approach to community development.


Vine Deloria, Jr., in the book God Is Red, suggests that "the fundamental factor that frequently keep Natives and non-Natives from communicating is that they are speaking about two entirely different perceptions of the world." The basic difference lies in the perception of what is "objective" versus what is "subjective."

Carl Jung, in his studies comparing indigenous peoples and Western society, suggests that "both live on the same planet and have in many respects similar types of daily experience. They refer to the same external reality or events outside themselves but the basic difference for indigenous people is that they do not differentiate the subjective from the objective and the spiritual from the material." For example, Aboriginal people view land as a "subject", not an "object".

Aborignial Peoples' social identity - their economy, social structure, political culture, and religion - is tied to the land. In this way the Aboriginal approach to living or life is a holistic process, or as it has often been described, "becoming one with the land."  Aboriginal people perceive that the greatest need to improve the quality of life lies in human development. In contrast, the non-Native response to improving the quality of life is more often perceived as the development of economic standards, often through the use of natural resources.

The difference(s) in approach or definition of the healing process between Aboriginal communities and government departments may find its roots in the explanations offered in previous chapters. A good illustration of this was presented early on in this report by a non-Aboriginal member of the RCMP. This member expressed that Western society describes healing as "wounds needing repair", which presents a more "objective" view of the healing process. By contrast, this same RCMP member went on to say, the Aboriginal definition of the healing process is described as incorporating the "spiritual, physical, psychological, and emotional" elements of human life, which cannot be categorized as either a "subjective" or "objective" experience. In fact, the responses offered by participants throughout this report continually illustrate this phenomenon.

Another aspect which often differentiates Aboriginal people from Western society is the degree to which Aboriginal people emphasize the importance of "learning by doing." This learning is based upon the acquisition of wisdom rather than knowledge, and "modelling" rather than shaping. In short, nature is the great teacher which embodies the code of proper living, while the experience of living acts as the basic teacher to each individual.

Further to this is the basic principle of organization on which traditional Aboriginal values are based. Simply stated, survival is the primary goal, which individually is achieved by living in harmony with the universe, and which collectively is the responsibility of all group members. This collective responsibility is met through group interactions based on the principle of sharing one's abilities, talents, and resources as a means for benefitting the group rather than just the individual.

It is suggested that this Aboriginal concept of living is not completely foreign to Western society if the basic principles of community development are applied. This process developed by Western authors draws upon the very principles offered by Aboriginal societies. These principles include working together, maximizing the use of personal resources, and taking responsibility as a community to identify the problem and to solve it are all applicable to the guiding principle of organization developed by aboriginal societies. 


Is it possible to build a language for communication between Aboriginal communities and governments which can be used in defining the roles and responsibilities of both parties in the healing process? To reach agreement around "readiness" factors and strategies and activities specific to healing?
To examine this possibility, participants were asked to describe the "role they felt governments played in healing Aboriginal communities". The response which had been expected to be offered most frequently was the least: that of "funding". Instead, participants offered suggestions with respect to the future role that government can play.

Interestingly, the participants offered at least as many suggestions as to how government should operate, and what government should not do, as for what government should do. Again, this suggests that perhaps the most important contribution may not be a large infusion of money, but rather, something more complex and subtle. As one community member states:

These responses set a stage for consideration of strategies, discussed later in this chapter, which may be applicable to both defining the role of government and in developing policies which reflect this.


A common plea was for governments to understand Aboriginal people better, real understanding being at the basis of better working relationships. In order to do this, governments must listen more effectively and observe first-hand:

Listening involves clarifying what is read or heard and not simply referring back to what is familiar or believed to be known. The opportunity to work towards partnership will be reflected in the willingness to compare and review any differences in terminology or concepts which may differ from one's own. The term "forgiveness" is a case in point:

This state or sense of forgiveness becomes a path for bringing life back into a sense of balance or wholeness. It is not meant to detract from or minimize the experience, but rather, to clear the way to move forward.

Specific to criminal justice operations, another community member points to the difference in "languaging" between the Western society and Aboriginal communities. In Aboriginal languages, words for "punishment" do not exist, but words for "respect" and "responsibility" do. A fundamental difference in language and concept between the two groups lies in how one comes to be labelled as "guilty". In most Aboriginal languages, the concept of guilt, as understood within the Canadian legal system, simply does not exist


Along with listening and observing first-hand goes the obligation to talk directly and openly with Aboriginal communities.

One participant went further to suggest a specific strategy which government could implement in order to create an open and consistent dialogue between themselves and the communities. This strategy is aimed particularly at governments' natural constraint in trying to serve an entire country or large sections of the population.


Improving communication and understanding involves the examination of attitudes and values. Many have referred to the discrimination which has been experienced in the past, when aboriginal communities have become healthy or appear "too organized." Again, how government thinks and feels about these initiatives will have a direct impact on how roles and responsibilities will be defined and designed.

Many participants suggested that government officials need to look within themselves to see whether they have any fears which are standing in the way of progress.

The Youth in one community provide this guidance:

One participant shared their own experience of "looking within" and examining their own attitudes. Through this experience this individual was able to see how attitudes play into the success or failure of opportunities.

These comments express a need for further dialogue to what already takes place. They emphasize the need for consistency in that dialogue, whether it be direct or through a third party. They suggest that all levels of government including Chief and Council demonstrate a sincere desire and support for healing, that all levels of government examine their attitudes and concerns about communities engaging in a successful journey towards healing.

It is interesting to note that the responses given by adult members of the community were reflected in those responses offered by youth. Perhaps one critical reminder which has been raised by one youth is the fact that it is not possible to create "one grand scheme".

One Elder shared comments which present one of the many challenges faced by Aboriginal today. In describing this situation, the theme of respect remains the underlying issue which is at the core of the healing process. This description also serves to identify just how far partnerships do extend between communities and a variety of government departments:


Community members, including government employees who were interviewed, shared the vision that Aboriginal communities must take control of their own destiny and there must be a commitment by all parties, including Ministers and senior officials in governments, to support that empowerment. Their responses speak to how change can only be truly effective if the use of community resources, particularly community members, is maximized. In fact, success can only be achieved if the responsibility for the change is shared collectively and efforts by all are respected.


Participants have stressed the need for governments to listen and to provide a sense of support. The question to raise is "how do you do that" or "how can they demonstrate those qualities?"

As noted in the last chapter, the participants felt that governments needed to come to grips with the fact that the way in which their mandates and funding structures are organized may be a problem, and may be getting in the way of effective community development approaches.

In addition to calling for a more holistic way of approaching programs and funding, the participants had other suggestions to make as to how government could work differently.                  

One government employee shared how personnel qualifications and and department policies must also reflect the will to work with and assist communities in developing, if the role that governments play is to be effective. In regard to personnel qualifications it was stated:

In relation to this, department policies must go further in supporting their staff if there are to be any real benefits or spin-offs from their work.


It was suggested in the previous chapter that governments will need to take another look at how they measure and evaluate programs and processes. The need for patience while awaiting the long-term results of complex initiatives was a frequent theme.

Comments shared by government employees working in or with Aboriginal communities suggest:

Once it does become apparent, however, that a certain strategy is working, or has been found to be helpful, it is important to get the word out. One participant suggested that the methods for communication and public awareness referred to above should be used by governments in order to get the word out.


Participants felt that many community members still required training in some of the skills needed to provide healing and community development. It was considered particularly important to train community people in the delivery of these initiatives, rather than merely bringing in outside "experts" to deliver a program and then leave, taking all their skills with them. When outsiders come to a community, one of their responsibilities should be to leave some of their expertise and skills in the community. Ideally, outside experts should work themselves out of a position in the community as soon as possible.

Training is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate partnership and teamwork between the government and community. It is also an opportunity to move away from compartmentalized thinking to a more holistic approach to service and program delivery.


Once skills have been acquired, they must stay in the community. Not taking people out of the community in order to learn and heal, can make a big difference to overall community development.


One government participant, who has worked with many Aboriginal commmunities, suggested that there are several important steps in the process which governments must go through when asked to assist with healing initiatives.


As noted earlier, few participants simply stated that they thought government should act in the role of providing more funds. However, many participants offered views about how a greater return could be gotten from funds spent. In essence, these views suggest that investing in a preventive, healing approach now would reduce the requirement for "band-aid", reactive spending later on. In addition, governments are urged to take a long-term view of problems and solutions, rather than a hasty, piece-meal one.

Some participants did present a more cynical side to the development of partnerships and the definition of role. One such participant is an Aboriginal person working with one of the government departments who, unlike the other government employees who were interviewed, does not share the experience of being supported or encouraged by the employer's initiatives.

Another community member shared a similar experience. The program in question is directly federally administered, although the speaker is employed by the band:


Specific comments were made by government employees with respect to the role or mandate of Solicitor General, provincial Attorneys General, and Justice. Each offer different ways in which these departments can participate in this process:

Another participant offered that Solicitor General might play an educative role in bringing together the various parties:


The question of "readiness", although of critical importance in developing strategies for change, has in some circles become the very essence of what "traps" or delays progress from being achieved. As some participants articulated, the roadblocks or "red tape" which have become the guiding principles for developing partnerships between government and communities, or simply the tools for assisting a community in moving forward have, in fact, become the key to locking the door to progress.

What can be concluded from the participants' responses is that outside agencies and government departments have a potential role to play in that they may act as agents for change. Governments can assist communities in examining how they wnat to address the problem and in reinforcing community approaches which have been effective in the past. For their part, communities can assist governments in assessing the readiness of the community because community members have a feel for the presence and direction of changes in the community, whether that feeling comes through "numbers" or through experience. It is important to recognize that the process of assessing a community's readiness need not be lengthy and exhaustive. 

As one community member shared about external and internal systems:

It does suggest, however, that it is incumbent upon outside resources and government departments to examine this issue by developing a set of questions which can speak directly to the development of mandates and funding of protocols. Such questions are not exhaustive and might include:


This report has been written from quotations and stories people have shared through the interviewing process. Many statements are presented in ways which appear, on the surface, contradictory in terms. One must continually be reminded that individual perceptions vary as much as each Aboriginal community.

The process of gathering information reflects different views which can be generated from people's perception of healing based upon how the question(s) are asked and how clearly questions are stated. The advantage of a group interview can be that it becomes a forum for discussion of these issues between community members who might otherwise not have spoken to each other either because the opportunity never made itself available, or when they get together they speak of other things.

This was illustrated earlier in this report. A group interview which was conducted and those interviewed shared their perceptions on healing. In this interview, one individual made the statement that healing had begun to take place in the community because people were willing to even say words such as "sexual abuse" and "family violence", which were never spoken of in the past. Given this statement or explanation, the rest of those in the group who initially felt healing had not been experienced in the community, re-assessed their responses. They now agreed that healing had begun, stating that "they weren't thinking in those terms when we were answering the question". They felt they had been more focused on "self", and had not included the bigger picture.

Offering these opportunities can become a powerful tool lent to communities by government and outside agencies. The key is that partnerships between outside resources and communities require some degree of consistency. Governments should try to keep the same personnel or contractors working with the same communities. This is needed in order to build trust and to develop a style of communication and dialogue which is understood by all parties involved.

To begin this process, one must ask, "What is my own understanding or belief about how communities develop?" Examining our own attitudes and values about the development of communities will help us to define or clarify how we contribute to this process.  The contribution or role we determine for ourselves becomes a reflection of our beliefs and values.

In this spirit the following questions are raised for reflection:


This project was both a rewarding and challenging experience in that it provided the opportunity to re-connect with the communities, to experience the developments and progress which have been made, and to draw on the expertise of those often not heard from outside of their community. The challenge, of course, was putting their thoughts, feelings, and ideas to paper.

There is much to be gained from those who participated in the project; however, there are a few points which particularly stand out, and which are offered as concluding remarks to this report.

One critical factor which came out of this report was that it reinforced the understanding that Aboriginal people are not so different from non-Aboriginal people in the priorities they set in seeking to heal their community in order to make it a healthy and safe place to live. All emphasized that the foundation of healing lies within. It is in spirituality. It was not how one defines spirituality which is important but the recognition that it plays a critical role in shaping how inmdividuals and communities develop and grow.

What participants in the study have described as priorities in their communities, such as education, health, economic development, housing and prevention of crime or victimization, are in fact the priorities which are reflected in all cities, towns, and communities in Canada. A central point in this report is that all communities must be given the opportunity to take responsibility in developing strategies and for implementing activities which help them to set their priorities and to reach their goals.

This report seeks to provide an understanding about the healing process in Aboriginal communities, and to recommend potential roles and strategies for government in realtion to that process. One such strategy is derived from the understanding that the Aboriginal appraoch to healing, which is holistic in nature, is transferable to other parts of Canada. It is this holistic holistic approach which may be the missing link for other, non-Aboriginal communities in their development towards building healthier and safer communities.

In other words, Aboriginal communities do not want piece-meal programs, but rather a process for holistic development. The importance in this idea of linking discrete programs more holistically has been brought to our attention by non-Aboriginal communities, as well as by governments' recent recognition of the need to give consumers "single window" service in government programs.

The project also served to reinforce that Aboriginal communities are excited by the opportunity and willing to share their expertise and knowledge about healing as it relates to the development of healthy communities across Canada. Although there may be cultural differences, these differences need not become barriers to communication between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities or the sharing of expertise across cultural lines.

This does not suggest that people should drop their differences and all become alike in order to learn from one another. On the contrary, part of developing healthy and safe communities lies in the ability to recognize that every individual has something to contribute to meeting this end and in so doing, cultural, racial and religious differences do not have to stand in the way of building on one another's experience and wisdom.

The process of healing as referred to in this report is a process which "starts from within and moves outward". Another point raised by participants was the importance of healing to improve the quality of life. Improving the quality of life requires taking a personal inventory of our own attitudes with respect to particular issues and our feelings about individuals and groups who may be different from ourselves. The challenge for all of us is to bring those attitudes and values into balance so that we can in fact form viable partnerships in building a stronger future for all of our children.

With these thoughts in mind it is hoped that this report has retained the "spirit" of those who so graciously shared their experience and vision of how we can continue to bridge a greater understanding of one another in developing and maintaining the quality of life we all wish to pursue.

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