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Training in The Pas

Picture it.

It’s early January 2020 and it’s the dead of winter in Manitoba.

Two women embark in the worst Jeep Laredo to have ever existed and head north from Winnipeg to The Pas, a picturesque town, located on the convergence of both the Pasquia and the Saskatchewan River.

Their goal was to facilitate an exciting training session of the Listening to One Another Program that was organized collaboratively with a long-time partner of the project, Cree Nation Tribal Health Centre. Stopping only for sustenance, bathroom breaks, and pictures of giant grouse, the 7-hour drive was an intense adventure that Michelle and Michaela both enjoyed and endured.

Finally, they arrived at The Pas and were amazed by the vibrancy and activity in the town, as many travellers and workers pass through on their way to the North. Having a day to prepare before the training, Michaela and Michelle took advantage of the opportunity to explore The Pas and its surroundings, stopping at local hang outs like Miss The Pas and visiting the stunning Clearwater Lake, where they braved the -45 degree weather to take pictures at “golden hour”. Later in the evening, they even headed out to see an exciting hockey game and cheered on the local Opaskwayak Cree Nation Blizzards!

The next day was the first of the two-day training sessions, where both Michelle and Michaela got to meet community members from Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation, Pukatawagan (Mathias Colomb) and Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. The training group included 6 incredible women (2 from each community), all of whom play important roles in their respective communities. Everyone brought their own expertise and expertise working with youth and families to the table, and this diversity led to informative and engaging discussions about program implementation!

It was so amazing to hear about the programs and activities already ongoing in the communities, and how LTOA could be integrated. For example, Irene mentioned that in her community, Pukatawagan (Mathias Colomb), children design and sew their own regalia, which they then showcase at an exciting fashion show in The Pas! Irene believed she could see the LTOA program merging with this annual event. The other attendees of the training session loved this idea and perhaps a collaboration among LTOA groups in the future may be possible!

One of the poignant moments occurred towards the end of the training when we all stood up to play the Yarn Game. The Yarn Game is an activity in the LTOA program that encourages youth and families to compliment each other as the yarn is passed across the circle. Since we were wrapping up the two days of training, we decided to focus our question for the game on what we learned during the training. Everyone shared how they were feeling and what they learned, creating a warm bond between all the women attending. We were even so fortunate to have Christina (Pukatawagan (Mathias Colomb)) sing us a beautiful honour song, which was deeply appreciated by all.

This two-day training in The Pas was an exciting and informative event, made all the better by those participating in the training! We really want to thank Cree Nation Tribal Health again for all their work creating this training opportunity. We also want to thank Christina, Irene, Frankie, Elvira, Luella and Carla for all their participation and insight, and look forward to hearing about the implementation of LTOA in these communities!


The LTOA Logo Reimagined

In our last newsletter, we put out a call to creative souls to help us design a new logo for the LTOA Program! We were so thankful to receive a very special design from Lisa Wilson of Lillooet, BC. Below, hear from Lisa about how she created the logo, and what it means to both her and the LTOA program.

Tell us about yourself!

K̓alhwá7alap, my name is Lisa Wilson. I am half Cree, half St̓át̓imc. My mother is from Kasechewan, a Cree community in Ontario, and my father is from Xaxli’p, a St̓át̓imc community in British Columbia. As for me, I have currently been living on St̓át̓imc territory and am a registered Xaxli’p band member.

I am a 22-year-old university student at Thompson Rivers University working towards the Bachelor’s (then hopefully Masters) in Social Work. I am aiming for a Social Work degree in hopes of one day becoming a clinical counsellor to aid my people. With my mother working in health, I am no stranger to the healthcare system and it has piqued my desire to enter the field myself. Moreover, with many of my family members being survivors of the Indian Residential Schools, I plan to use the intergenerational hardship that have been passed onto me, as a tool to relate and aid others who have inherited the same traumatic after effects of colonialism.

I come from a family of artists, my late father being a well-known traditional artist in our community and my mother and siblings being hobbyists like myself. I entered the digital art world as a teen and I’ve been enjoying it ever since, I enter logo contests and do digital commissions here and there but I mostly just create for my own enjoyment. Personally, art has always been a great tool for self- reflection and expression and it will probably be a hobby of mine for as long as I am able to create it.

Why did you choose to create this logo?

I chose to create this logo because the LTOA program description really resonated with me. I love supporting anything that has to do with bringing culture back to our people. Using culture and community support as preventative healing techniques aligns strongly with my belief that the land, the language and the people is a strong enough foundation to help Indigenous people be proud of who we are and rise up after the continued negative affects of colonialism.

The colors represent the four colors of the medicine wheel (one of my home communities uses blue instead of black, so I went with that since it fit better aesthetically), and since the medicine wheel is a used in nations across the country it works great as a symbol for culture, healing, and the circle of life.

I also wanted the shape of the turtle shell to mimic that of a sweat lodge since that is also a huge indigenous cultural symbol, and I have always found them to be a very healing and communal sacred ceremony growing up. The two people represent communal engagement, I made one older (an adult or Elder) and a youth to represent the passing of teachings between the two generations.

I also wanted this logo to be ambiguous enough to be interpreted in many more ways that even I never thought of while creating it!

Thank you again, Lisa, for the beautiful work and words, and congratulations on winning the contest!

Nova Scotia Training, Fall 2019

In the Fall of 2019, National Program Coordinator, Michelle Kehoe, along with the Research Coordinator, Nicole D’souza, and Research Assistant, Tristan Supino, were lucky enough to visit Nova Scotia to conduct an intense week of training. The three met with the Eskasoni Mental Health Services (EMHS) team at their local Access Centre, and with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq Nova Scotia (CMMNS) team.

The first training was a 45-minute drive from the LTOA team’s lodging; however, Michelle, Nicole and Tristan didn’t mind the commute, as they got to drive through beautiful landscapes. One morning they even left a little earlier than necessary to stop and snap some photos of the scenery. Upon their arrival in Eskasoni, the team was greeted by a familiar face, Mary, who had come to Montreal this past summer for LTOA’s annual TESE meeting. Michelle recognized more familiar faces from her last travels to Eskasoni in the spring with B.C. Regional Coordinator Erin, while Nicole and Tristan had a chance to meet the rest of the EMHS Team. The training of the 14 family program sessions meant an intense and jam-packed two days. The EMHS team was already familiar with certain aspects of the LTOA program, as they had implemented the smaller School Program in the spring, which helped the training move along smoothly. All the hard work paid off, and everyone involved has a small Tree of Life drawing to show for it.

On Wednesday the team traveled from Sydney to Millbrook. Normally, this drive is a doable 4 hours, but it ended up taking the team 7. Michelle, seeking fun opportunities and having a good sense of adventure, found amazing spots to stop along the way: skipping rocks on the water, scouting out some tiny jellyfish, and embracing freezing and blustering winds for a chance to walk along a rocky beach.

The second training took place in Millbrook. As with the first training, the round with CMMNS would also be a busy two days. The Mental Wellness Manager, Katie, welcomed the LTOA team members and introduced them to her larger team. This would be the third time meeting with Katie, as she was personally introduced to the LTOA program members at a meeting held in Winnipeg, February 2019, and attended the annual TESE meeting in Montreal at the end of August, 2019. Throughout the training the CMMNS team asked many good questions, proposed different suggestions, and were eager for their first implementation of the LTOA program. Despite not having previous experience with LTOA, their engagement made it clear that they had a deep grasp of the contents.

To cap off the intense week, Michelle, Nicole, and Tristan drove visited a nearby Farmer’s Market, following a recommendation offered by a CMMNS team member. Michelle and Nicole bought locally made lip-balm, while Tristan found room for a second serving of tacos from the food truck outside. The day closed with another long drive to Rushtons Beach Provincial Park, where they watched the sunset while fighting off mosquitos.


This trip was a great opportunity for the members of the LTOA team to connect and build stronger ties with community partners. The LTOA team looks forward to hearing about the implementation process and the creative elements each team brings to the program.

TESE Meeting, Summer 2019

This past summer, the McGill team held their annual Two-Eyed Seeing Evaluation (TESE) gathering, on August 17th and 18th, in Montreal. These TESE Gatherings brings together partners from across Canada who are delivering the Listening to One Another (LTOA) Program in their respective communities to share, connect, and grow. This year, McGill hosted partners from British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. Some different faces were present this year, as well as some familiar faces, and some community partners we had not seen for quite a bit.

The TESE gathering routine did not unfold like business as usual, which added exciting flair. First, we had an opportunity to meet at the beautiful Thompson house and ate our lunches surrounded by the greenery of the McTavish Reservoir. The new location also made it easier for everyone to explore downtown Montreal after the days’ duties were fulfilled. Even the theme of this year’s TESE Gathering took on a new moto of “community and connection.” Each partner had the chance to share where they’re at with respect to the LTOA Program. For example, partners shared their experiences in delivering the program in their respective communities, while also highlighting some success and challenges they faced in these processes. Partners also discussed how they have adapted the program to meet the particular needs of their community, and what the future of the LTOA program will look like in their community. Each partner was at their own unique stage within the process of planning, adapting and implementing the LTOA Program, which made for a meaningful sharing of experience and rich conversations.

As a group, we also had the opportunity to take stock of the LTOA Program materials and discuss strategies to enhance our “community of practice” and ensure meaningful, community-based research opportunities exist for each partner and community.

To have each partner, who represented their community so beautifully, gathered together is always inspiring and we all come away from the TESE Gathering motivated to do more good work across Canada!

SSPC Conference

In April 2019, we headed over to Toronto for the annual Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture (SSPC) conference. Our intrepid team included research assistant Tristan Supino, LTOA research coordinator Dr. Nicole D’souza, community partner Erin Aleck, and principal investigator Dr. Laurence J. Kirmayer. Erin was actually on her way back from her training session in Eskasoni, N.B., and was happy to join the team to present her poster that was developed in collaboration with Mia Messer, another of the team’s research assistants!

The SSPC is an organization committed to furthering research, clinical care and education of the cultural aspects of mental health and illness, with this year’s conference theme being, “Engagement, Empowerment, Equity: From Theory to Practice”. The LTOA team was there to present their posters that were made in collaboration with LTOA community partners!

First up, Tristan presented the poster he made, in partnership with Stefanie Bryant, about the adaption of the LTOA school-based program with Anishinaabe of Treaty #3. Secondly, Erin presented her poster on the cultural adaptation of LTOA that she did in Nlaka’pamux First Nation. Michaela also presented a poster that was made in collaboration with members from Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services (AAFS), presenting their unique LTOA facilitator training model that they developed! Both Dr. Kirmayer and Nicole were also panelists and presenters at the conference and spoke about their experiences and work in the field.

It was an incredibly enriching experience for all attendees, and we enjoyed learning and interacting with other researchers and other professionals who are doing similar work! It was motivating to see how professionals and researchers are integrating culture into their practice and making a point to develop culturally safe spaces!

School Program Training in Eskasoni First Nation

During Michelle’s first few weeks in her new role as National Coordinator of the Listening to One Another Program, she had the amazing opportunity to travel to Eskasoni First Nation to deliver the LTOA School Program training for staff from Eskasoni First Nation.

What made this trip even more special was that she travelled with LTOA Regional Coordinator, Erin Aleck. Their travels together was such a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other better. They took time during one of their prep days to explore beautiful Cape Breton. They both loved walking around the many beaches and collecting rocks and sea glass along the way and taking many pictures to savour the memory!

It was so great to have Erin part of the training. Erin shared her experiences as a LTOA Program Facilitator which was so helpful for the staff who took part in the training. The team that Erin and Michelle trained from Eskasoni First Nation was absolutely amazing! The group of 15 participants was made up of individuals who worked in various sectors within the community. This made for such a unique training and created a very supportive wrap around approach when it came to delivering the LTOA School Program on the ground.

Erin and Michelle, as well as the rest of the LTOA team, are both excited to see where the LTOA Program grows within Eskasoni First Nation and hope to make a trip back to train staff on the LTOA Family Program.

Cultural Safety

Summer of 2018, we held our annual NAMHR meeting where we invited guests from across the country to talk about the upcoming year. One topic of conversation was to apply for a SSHRC funded grant, which would allow us to meet in a central location to discuss the importance of cultural safety when implementing interventions and research in Indigenous settings. Our partners agreed and there was a frantic scramble to meet the incoming deadline for the SSHRC connections grant. With much deliberation and a lot of help from our partners, we submitted the grant in time and won! The team passed the information on to our partners and they were excited to come meet again!

In February 2019, the Montreal research team, as well as partners from B.C., the East Coast, and parts of Ontario, flew into the horrifyingly frigid Winnipeg winter’s -50 degrees. Others, from Kenora and The Pas, fought through the snow to come meet us! 17 guests from across the country convened at the Sandman hotel in Winnipeg for the three-day meeting.

Over the course of the three days, we used this opportunity to catch-up with partners, but also to discuss the importance of creating culturally safe spaces throughout all aspects of program implementation and research. Over the course of three days, the LTOA team reflected on their experiences with the program and the role of cultural safety across both the implementation and research process. Only a few guiding questions were needed, as our partners eagerly discussed the attributes that are necessary in creating a culturally safe space. Three significant themes that emerged were: (1) personal and interpersonal dynamics of the partnership and collaboration between community researcher and non-Indigenous researcher; (2) structural, social, and contextual dimensions of the research process; and (3) the cultural dimensions of the process. It was an incredibly valuable discussion and one that we all left feeling enriched by the experience.

Part of this grant included a meeting space in Ottawa, with other grant holders, to discuss topics related to research in Indigenous settings. Principal Investigator, Dr. Laurence J. Kirmayer, and community partner from B.C., Erin Aleck, joined these other researchers to talk at this two-day National Dialogue! Erin expressed how strong of a team her and Laurence were during these discussions, and how they both brought different forms of knowledge to the meeting that complimented each other quite nicely.

The LTOA team would like to extend a thank you to everyone that was involved in putting together the SSHRC grant and making this meeting so successful!


Cultural Adaptation in Siska, BC

In July 2018, the then-national coordinator, Dominique Geoffroy, research coordinator Nicole D’souza, and research assistant, Mia Messer, traveled to Siska, British Columbia to meet new community partners from the Nlaka’pamux Nation. The team was greeted by mental health clinician’s manager Elizabeth Perdok-Waboose, facilitator Erin Aleck and co-facilitator Ashley Loring-Earl and researcher April Mazzuca at Heskwenscutxe Health Center. The first day was spent getting to know each other, and learning the stories of the land. Erin dedicated her time by taking our group to various important sites, such as the Stein River Valley, the site of the First Salmon Ceremony, and other personally special places. The landscape was breathtakingly beautiful, and the stories even more so. 

The second day was focused on the present-day. A focus group was held with Erin, Ashley, and the Elder, Ina at the health service building. Together we examined the program’s content and materials that Erin had adapted and put together, such as personalized Zu? Zu? Twu?x sweatshirts for her participants. Erin had used a rug, bought by a First Nation magazine, to serve as the center piece to the program meeting space; it was a soft, cozy rug that the kids could lie upon and sit on during sessions.

The adaptation process, especially the language translation, was time-consuming, and at times overwhelming. Erin was learning the language as she put the program together, and depended on community members and Elders to help her translate. In the moments of stress, Ina held a deeply important role for Erin, who often described her as her rock.

On the third day of the visit, we spent the day with Elizabeth and Wanda Dexel from Scw’exmx Community Health Services Society in Merritt, BC. Here, we discussed the potential of the program to exist in the Nlaka’pamux Nation at the organizational level. These talented women specialized in focus-oriented therapy, and the LTOA program looked like a promising vessel for community healing and mental health promotion. Dominique introduced some of the sessions by showing session overview videos. We finished this meeting by reviewing what the program will need to continue in the future within this region. For example, the facilitator is a key player during the program, as issues happening within the community may impact the families participating in the program. The facilitator needs to be capable of shutting down external conflicts during the program, which can put the facilitator in a difficult position. The space in which the program takes place also impacts how the program unfolds. This notion has been further developed within the past year with Erin and Ina, as well as with other community members, at various meetings that have been held with the LTOA team. Ultimately, creating a space that encourages people to take part in the program, regardless of what may be occurring in the community, and having a role model as a facilitator, instills the values of the program. Lastly, certain resources are absolutely critical in order to implement the program to its fullest and best extent.


Overall, the first trip to Siska was a success, and it created a strong foundation for relationships that have been built throughout the past year. Erin, Ina and April have joined the LTOA research team in Montreal and Winnipeg since, and Dominique and Mia had the opportunity to visit Siska in January 2019.


Before the start of the delivery, many tasks are done by the community team. An important one is to find a cook or caterer, who will prepare a nutritious meal for each of the 14 sessions. The lead-facilitator, co-facilitator, and Elder will also distribute flyers and organize an information session. A pre-program checklist on page 15 of the Facilitator Manual helps facilitators remembering the tasks to be accomplished.

Binders with printed materials and a USB key

A binder that was distributed at the training session contains printed copies of all the materials needed for the delivery of the program and its evaluation. Hence the facilitators can make photocopies of the pre-program questionnaires and consent forms for youth and adults. Also in the binder, a document informs about the procedure and the way to allocate ID numbers to participants in order to keep all data confidential. A video that explains the procedure is also available on the USB key or by following this link: http://www.mcgill.ca/mhp/online-resources/video-resources

(the last video at the bottom of the webpage)

For more information on the first steps of the delivery, do not hesitate to communicate with your regional coordinator or with Dominique at 514-340-8222 extension:22192

Pre-program checklist

2017 Training in Kenora and Winnipeg

On December 11, Dominique met with workers from the Kenora Chiefs Advisory organization who deliver programs and services to surrounding Anishinabe communities. The idea was to familiarize them with the BII-ZIN-DA-DE-DAH materials such as the videos and games that were created over the years. We played the ‘Fish and Canoe’ game (Session 9: Making Choices), which allows families to think critically on the beneficial or harmful use of a substance after reading a scenario on a playing card. Everyone had fun when trying to get to the top of this ‘snake and latter’ type of game. We also played the ‘Yarn game’ (Session 12: Building Social Support), which consists or saying things that we appreciate from each other, while the yarn is making its way to each participant showing that everyone is connected.

KCA workers playing the Fish and Canoe game

Then on December 12, we met with Elders. At each session, their Teachings and stories that relate to the weekly theme are so important for family wellness. When talking about the ‘Tree of Life’ activity, it generated the idea of creating a new video that would transmit Teachings about different trees.

Elders and workers at KCA

On December 13, we met with managers at KCA to discuss budget and program delivery.

On December 14 and 15, Cindy Piche and Dominique trained two new facilitators, Chanda and Kyle from the MA MAWI WI CHI ITATA Centre in Winnipeg and Michelle from the Canadian Mental Health Association of Manitoba. This new group has received their own funding from a private organization and will also be part of the ongoing program evaluation.

Dominique, Kyle, Michelle, Chanda and Cindy

With them, we reviewed the 14 sessions. At Session 1 (Welcoming Feast), we explained the Turtle game that is played with the ‘Value’ cards on the outer scales. The same board game is used at Session 2 (Family), but this time with the ‘Moon Cycle’ cards on the inner scales. Each time, tobacco cards are distributed to the teams. If needed, players can use a card to ask advice from the Elder.

Playing the Turtle game

We are almost at the end of 2017. We would like to take a moment to thank you all for the good work that was accomplished this year. We also wish you a wonderful time with family and friends during the Holiday period. Our hopes are that in 2018, the Listening to One Another to Grow Strong Family and School programs will be delivered in many communities. Looking forward to continue this work in progress…

From the former and current members of the research Team in Montreal: Laurence, Eli, Nicole, Cassandra, Amanda, Sophie, Gregory and Dominique : – )

To facilitators: We always appreciate getting feedback after each session. What about the Tree of Life activity? How is it working out in your community or school?


To consolidate the skills learned from session to session, each family will create a Tree of Life over the course of the program. Symbolically, the roots, trunk, branches and fruits represent: wisdom from the past, family values, skills, and ideas for the future. At the end of the program, the trees will be displayed on a mural showing the strengths acquired by the families: A forest of strengths.

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