Team meeting 2014

It’s been great to have the MHP team all together in Montreal for our team meeting, our first since October 2012. Of course, our coordinator Dominique has been in constant email/telephone contact with all the teams in Canada and the US but there’s nothing like meeting face to face!

MHP team meeting

Ron, Melissa and Devan

Laurence welcoming the group

Laurence welcoming the group

The two days kicked off with an update from each team.

Anishinabe – gearing towards sustainability
Devan Crawford and Melissa Walls shared the progress of the Anishinabe team. Of all the communities running the programme, there were a total of 33 families participating in the last round, with 23 families graduating, an excellent result! However there are some challenges too, in particular finding facilitators has been difficult.

Devan talked about their team’s strong desire to make this project sustainable so that other communities in the future would be able to run the programme themselves, using a complete “how to do it” document. They hope to provide all the materials to run the programme including a manual and parent and youth booklets for free online. These documents would be editable and ready for different communities to adapt the programme to their own culture. All activities listed in the manual would be optional and would come with a list of suggested alternates so that the programme is truly flexible and adaptable to each community’s needs and available resources. They would also like to set up a peer system where communities who have already completed the programme can be available to provide advice for new communities starting out. There is a strong desire to keep this project going, and not to let it end once the funding runs out.


Devan showing a board game developed by one of the communities

Québec – a new community interested in the project!
The Québec team was represented by Patricia Montambault, Karen Gobeil and Arlene Laliberté. Patricia shared that she and her colleague Audrey Vézina from the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) will soon be meeting with a new Innu community in Northern Quebec. They will review the program and the evaluation process with interested local members.

Also in Quebec, a second round of the program will begin in September in Gesgapegiag, a Mi’gmaq community. In the meantime, the local team is planning to improve the cultural adaptation by producing new material.

Swampy Cree – finding programme champions
Lawrence Katz and Corrine Isaak from the Manitoba team spoke about the rewards and challenges in running the programme in the Swampy Cree communities. Two communities have completed one round, one group had three graduating families and the other had four families. Currently there are other communities at various stages of the programme.

Recruiting and retaining facilitators is the most difficult part of running the programme. Many facilitators have full time jobs so they are fitting their work as facilitators in as a second job.

Ron Cook as the liaison between the University and the communities travels out to visit all the communities and provides support for the facilitators. Some communities are very small so finding ten families that fit the programme criteria is a challenge. However, for the families that do attend the programme the feedback has been very positive. In one community the families are getting to know each other better, fostering a closer knit community and there was a blanket ceremony as part of the graduation session. Word of mouth spreads easily through the small communities so team members stressed the importance of finding champions of the programme.


Corinne and Lawrence

Splatsin – changing the way we interact at home

Raven Sinclair showed the group a video of stills from the second round of the program. It was great to see the families smiling, playing, working, and enjoying being together. Feedback from participants have been wonderful, with some parents in particular stating how the programme has changed how their families interact with each other at home. To watch the video, click here.


Raven and Lawrence enjoying the video of participants from the Splatsin community

As the project is coming to its 4th year, the aim is to standardize the ‘Team Report’ across sites. Much of the meeting covered a section-by-section review of the evaluation process.

The team lunched on delicious and nutritious food provided by Kwe Kwe Gourmet from Kahnawake.


some delicious venison pie for lunch!

As a wrap up after lunch on our last day, we passed around an image of the Anishinabe Sacred Tree that was used in the programme by the Anishinabe communities and asked all team members to choose one value from the Tree they felt was the most important to them (strength, patience, discipline, etc.) and why. We’ll have the results up very soon, it was great to hear the diversity of answers!


Team meeting photo: Dominique, Raven, Patricia, Laurence, Ron, Lawrence, Karen, Sophie, Corinne, Devan, Melissa

Till the next meeting!

Dominique and Sophie


Cultural adaptation in Aboriginal mental health

On January 11th and 12th, 2013, Dr. Joshua Moses and Dr. Laurence Kirmayer, two representatives from the culturally-based, family-centered mental health promotion for Aboriginal youth project at McGill, paid a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia to discuss cultural adaptation.

The meeting brought together three projects across the country, all funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, who are culturally adapting mental health promotion initiatives to fit an Aboriginal cultural context and ensure cultural relevancy. The primary purpose of the meeting was to begin to develop a toolkit on guidelines in cultural adaptation in Aboriginal communities for funders, practitioners and researchers based on the experiences of the three projects.

In addition to the McGill project, at the table were representatives from Manitoba, from the Towards Flourishing Project, and representatives from British Columbia from the Connecting the Dots project at the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres. For more information on Connecting the Dots see or contact For more information on the Towards Flourishing project please email or

During the first day of the two-day meeting each project presented on key learnings in cultural adaptation, based upon their work in their own projects. Although the primary focus was on cultural adaptation in Aboriginal communities, Manitoba also presented on potential considerations in cultural adaptation in an immigrant context. In the second day of the meeting, the team discussed the format of the toolkit to be developed and major topics that would be covered in that toolkit.

Although the toolkit is still under development, consensus was reached on the importance of several considerations when undertaking cultural adaptation work in an Aboriginal context, including:

  • The importance of relationship building to cultural adaptation
  • Ensuring a respectful and culturally competent process
  • Active involvement of Aboriginal communities in the adaptation process
  • The need for a flexible structure and approach to cultural adaptation order to promote cultural relevance and cultural safety
  • The importance of understanding fiscal year budget constraints and their impact on cultural adaptation work
  • The need to acknowledge the diversity and complexity of culture

These lessons and more will be discussed in the upcoming toolkit, providing policy makers, government, practitioners and researchers, with a needed overview of possible challenges and promising practices in cultural adaptation work in Aboriginal communities. The toolkit will also offer a literature review on cultural adaptation in both an Aboriginal and immigrant context and a scoping of Canadian cultural adaptation initiatives.

Stay tuned for future updates on the status of this cultural adaptation toolkit!


Caitlin O’Reilly

Canadian Mental Health Association




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