Correctional Service Canada Healing Lodges

Aboriginal Healing Lodges are correctional institutions where we use Aboriginal values, traditions and beliefs to design services and programs for offenders. We include Aboriginal concepts of justice and reconciliation. The approach to corrections is holistic and spiritual. Programs include guidance and support from Elders and Aboriginal communities.

CSC’s healing lodges for Aboriginal women offenders are minimum/medium-security facilities. For Aboriginal men, they are minimum-security facilities. Non-Aboriginal offenders can also live at a healing lodge. However, they must choose to follow Aboriginal programming and spirituality. In all cases, we thoroughly assess an offender’s risk to public safety before a decision is made to move him or her to a healing lodge. 

Healing lodges operate in one of two ways. They may be funded and operated by CSC and our staff or they may be funded by CSC and managed by community partner organizations. In the second case, community partner organizations sign an agreement with CSC under Section 81 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). There are currently nine CSC healing lodges across Canada. Four are managed by CSC and five under Section 81.


In 1990, there were plans for five new regional federal facilities. A report called Creating Choices, by the Task Force for Federally Sentenced Women, recommended that one of these should be specifically for Aboriginal women. The Native Women’s Association of Canada proposed the concept of a healing lodge. This was supported by former federal Aboriginal offenders who were serving as advisors to CSC. Two important issues prompted the creation of healing lodges.

Members of the Aboriginal community were very concerned that mainstream prison programs do not work for Aboriginal offenders.

There is a dramatic over-representation of Aboriginal people in Canada’s correctional system.

In 1992, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) strengthened the relationship between CSC and Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal communities now help develop and deliver services and programs to Aboriginal offenders. This creates an environment that is inclusive of Aboriginal spirituality and culture.

The Lodges Managed by CSC

Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge

Maple Creek, Saskatchewan

Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge

Date opened: 1995
Managed by: CSC
Security level: Minimum/medium security for women
Number of beds: 30
Number of employees: 65 (2012)

Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge was CSC’s first healing lodge for women offenders. Its name means "thunder hills" in Cree. It is located in the Nekaneet First Nations territory in southern Saskatchewan. The healing lodge and building are circular rather than hierarchical. The focal point is the spiritual lodge where teachings, ceremonies, and workshops with Elders take place. Okimaw Ohci contains both single and family residential units, as offenders may have their children stay with them. Each unit has a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchenette with an eating area, and a living room.

A personal life plan is created for each Aboriginal offender outlining what she needs emotionally, physically, and spiritually to help with her rehabilitation. Programs help offenders build the strength they need to make essential changes in their lives. Programs address vocational training, family and children, Aboriginal language, and nature. The women learn how to live independently by cooking, doing laundry, cleaning, and doing outdoor maintenance chores.

Pê Sâkâstêw Centre

Maskwacis, Alberta

Pê Sâkâstêw Centre

Date opened: 1997
Managed by: CSC
Security level: Minimum security for men
Number of beds: 60
Number of employees: 53 (2012)

After the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge opened, CSC began planning the first facility for Aboriginal male offenders. This was done in consultation with the Samson Cree First Nation near Maskwacis, Alberta. Pê Sâkâstêw Centre is pronounced bay-saw-ga-stay-o. It means "new beginnings" in Cree. The architectural design reflects the Aboriginal world view. Six circular buildings are arranged in a large circle on the 40-acre site. Symbols significant to the Samson Cree First Nation, such as the medicine wheel, the four directions, and the colors red, yellow, white, and blue, are integrated into the centre's design.

Programs at Pê Sâkâstêw are based on the belief that Aboriginal spirituality is central to the healing process for Aboriginal offenders. Elders and staff from surrounding Aboriginal communities teach offenders traditional values and spiritual practices. At the same time they offer training and counseling, and serve as role models.

Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village

Harrison Mills, British Columbia

Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village

Date opened: 2001
Managed by: CSC
Security level: Minimum security for men
Number of beds: 50
Number of employees: 70 (2012)

Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Lodge is located 140 kilometres east of Vancouver, British Columbia on Chehalis First Nation land. Formerly Elbow Lake Institution, the facility was renamed Kwìkwèxwelhp in 2001. The new name means "where medicine is collected". The lodge is a correctional centre for Aboriginal men. Staff and Elders practice traditional and holistic Aboriginal teachings. The facility provides holistic programs, as well as training and maintenance skills to improve employability.

Willow Cree Healing Lodge

Duck Lake, Saskatchewan

Willow Cree Healing Lodge

Date opened: 2004
Managed by: CSC
Security level: Minimum security for men
Number of beds: 80
Number of employees: 56 (2012)

Willow Cree Healing Lodge is located on the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation Reserve near Duck Lake, Saskatchewan. The Cree name is Nîpisikopawiyiniwak Nânâtawihôkamik. Offenders are referred to as “Nîcisân” or “Nîcisânak”. This is a Cree word for “brother” or “brothers”. The healing lodge is staffed primarily with Aboriginal people from the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nations and other Aboriginal communities.

Willow Cree offers holistic programming that involves the community and Elders. This fosters the offender’s personal growth, cultural identity, inner peace, and the development of healthy and balanced living. Programs address substance abuse, family violence, parenting and anger management. There are also sex offender programs and Elder services. All core treatment programs have intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual components. Willow Cree also offers training in carpentry and food handling, as well as courses geared towards oil field safety, mining, forestry (fire fighting), and first aid/CPR.

Section 81 Healing Lodges Operated by the Community

Stan Daniels Healing Centre

Edmonton, Alberta

Stan Daniels Healing Centre

Date opened: 1999
Managed by: Section 81 - Native Counseling Services of Alberta
Security level: minimum security for men and a Community Residential Facility (CRF) for offenders on conditional release in the community
Number of beds: 73
Number of employees: 33 (2012)

The Stan Daniels Healing Centre provides a safe, structured, and respectful environment for offenders, their family, and the community. The centre emphasizes holistic healing and uses strong cultural identity as the foundation for building self-esteem. Elders play a critical role as spiritual and cultural teachers. With guidance from Elders, feedback from residents, and the contributions of staff, residents are given the opportunity to heal, grow spiritually, and reconnect with Aboriginal culture.

Programming is culturally-sensitive. It focuses on relationships, loss and recovery, family, relapse prevention, healing, and substance abuse. Offenders are also encouraged to take part in traditional ceremonies, such as the Sundance Ceremony.

Waseskun Healing Centre

St-Alphonse-Rodriguez, Quebec

Waseskun Healing Centre

Date opened: 1999
Managed by: Section 81-Waseskun Healing Centre
Security level: minimum security for men and a Community Residential Facility (CRF) for offenders who are on some form of conditional release to the community
Number of beds: 22
Number of employees: 32 (2012)

The Waseskun Healing Centre is located approximately an hour from Montreal, Quebec, in the foothills of the Laurentian mountain range. The centre works closely with the different indigenous communities from across Canada, including the northern regions. It offers French and English holistic teachings. These focus on each offender’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healthy, in order to help them regain balance in their lives. Waseskun’s overall aim is to empower residents to accept responsibility for their own actions and understand the consequences they have created for themselves, their victims, families, and communities.

Programs follow a community-based and holistic healing philosophy that incorporates both western and traditional therapeutic approaches. The centre strongly encourages Aboriginal communities to participate in the healing journey and reintegration of their members. Some of the services provided include:

  • intensive residential therapy
  • group programs
  • vocational training
  • supervision and follow-up support
  • intensive personal development sessions
  • training for communities in prevention and intervention

O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi Healing Lodge

Crane River, Manitoba

Ochi-chak-ko-sipi Healing Lodge

Date opened: 2003
Managed by: Section 81-O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation
Security level: minimum security for men
Number of beds: 24
Number of employees: 18 (2012)

O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi Healing Lodge helps offenders to heal, grow spiritually, and integrate successfully into the community. There is a strong focus on mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional healing. Importance is placed on traditional Aboriginal values, beliefs, and practices. An Aboriginal architect designed the earthen spiritual centre, which consists of a tipi-inspired central lodge, four residences, and a place for visitors. The design inspires spiritual healing and growth.

Offenders are encouraged to follow their healing plan and take rehabilitation programs that focus on life skills, alcohol and substance abuse, personal and family counseling, problem-solving, career planning, and leadership. Programs emphasize the importance of better lifestyle choices, including nutrition, exercise, stress relief, anger management, parenting, and sexual/health issues.

Buffalo Sage Wellness House

Edmonton, Alberta

Buffalo Sage Wellness House

Date opened: 2011
Managed by: Section 81-Native Counselling Services of Alberta
Security level: minimum/medium security for women, as well as a Community Residential Facility (CRF) for women offenders who are on release in the community
Number of beds: 16
Number of employees: 17 (2012)

At the Buffalo Sage Wellness House, staff and Elders prepare women offenders to return to the community by helping them make appropriate choices and positive changes in their lives.

Buffalo Sage helps women identify their needs to create a correctional plan that will help them with their holistic and spiritual rehabilitation and self-esteem. Programs are culturally sensitive. They are held in a structured and traditional environment that reflects the needs of the Aboriginal woman offender, community, and releasing authorities.

Prince Albert Grand Council Spiritual Healing Lodge

Wahpeton First Nation, Saskatchewan

Prince Albert Grand Council Spiritual Healing Lodge

Date opened: 1997
Managed by: Section 81-Prince Albert Grand Council
Security level: Minimum security for men
Number of beds: 12
Number of employees: 11

The Prince Albert Grand Council Spiritual Healing Lodge is a 10-minute drive from downtown Prince Albert, Saskatchewan on the Wahpeton First Nation.

The lodge provides First Nations people a solid grounding in their culture, values and customs. The spiritual, mental, physical and emotional needs of those in the healing lodge are addressed with a focus on self-healing through programs, Aboriginal spirituality and culture. Offenders have individualized healing plans and work with their caseworkers and with Elders to develop a healing contract.

The healing process is based on cultural values and beliefs and Elders are the heart of the Healing Lodge, providing counselling, ceremony, and guidance as well as vision and integrity. An integral part of this process is community reintegration planning. This involves the participation of families, extended families, home communities, and whenever possible, victim-offender circles.

The lodge stresses the importance of role modelling and offers pipe ceremonies and sweat lodges, as well as access to programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Those who want to take part in community-based programs are provided the opportunity to do so.