Indigenous healing lodges

Healing lodges are environments designed specifically for Indigenous offenders. They offer culturally appropriate services and programs to offenders in a way that incorporates Indigenous values, traditions and beliefs. Interventions, including Elder services and ceremonies, are provided to Indigenous offenders. The main goal is to address factors that led to their incarceration and prepare them for reintegration into society.

At a healing lodge, the needs of offenders are addressed through teachings and ceremonies, contact with Elders and interaction with nature. Emphasis is placed on spiritual leadership and the value of the life experiences of staff and community members who act as role models. Programs are delivered in a context of community interaction and focus on preparing an offender for their eventual release.

How offenders are placed in a healing lodge

Before an offender is transferred to a healing lodge, CSC thoroughly assesses that offender's risk to public safety. The offender's security level is based on how the offender will adjust to the institution, the risk of escape, and public safety. For all transfers to healing lodges, CSC ensures that the local Indigenous community and/or the Indigenous community organization are engaged.

An offender can request a transfer to a healing lodge. However, CSC's Guidelines 710-2-1 CRA Section 81: Admission and Transfer of Offenders set out criteria that an offender must meet before being transferred to the community pursuant to Section 81. Offenders must be classified as minimum security or, on a case-by-case basis, medium security. The offender must be willing to continue their healing journey, while being committed to their correctional plan and respecting the healing lodge's philosophy. They must also consent to the transfer to the healing lodge and abide by all rules and procedures of the healing lodge. Importantly, Guidelines 710-2-1 also outline who is responsible for providing written confirmation of acceptance for a transfer to a Section 81 healing lodge. CSC remains responsible for ensuring the best possible correctional services for offenders under its mandate.

Offenders do not have to be Indigenous to be placed in a healing lodge. However, they must choose to follow Indigenous programming and spirituality. Once inmates have expressed a sincere desire to participate in the spiritual correctional services offered at Indigenous healing lodges, they are entitled to participate in those spiritual practices under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). CSC is required to meet the spiritual and cultural beliefs of inmates. If an individual who is non-Indigenous has decided this is a sincere belief, CSC would be violating the inmate's Charter rights if they did not allow them to be placed in a healing lodge (if they meet all other requirements).

Currently (in 2019), across all CSC institutions, approximately 85 per cent of CSC's Indigenous offenders are working with Elders and committed or interested in following a traditional path. In comparison, about two per cent of non-Indigenous offenders are following a traditional path.

Public safety is CSC's main consideration with any placement.

How healing lodges are managed

Healing lodges operate in one of two ways. Either the lodge is run solely by CSC or it is managed by partner or community organizations. In the second case, Indigenous community partner organizations sign an agreement with CSC under Section 81 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). In both cases, CSC provides funding. There are currently nine healing lodges across Canada funded and/or operated by CSC.

CSC-operated healing lodges are:

  • Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village
  • Pê Sâkâstêw Centre
  • Willow Cree Healing Centre
  • Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge

Healing lodges operated by the Indigenous community or partner organizations are:

  • Stan Daniels Healing Centre (operated by the Native Counselling Service of Alberta)
  • O-chi-chak-ko-sipi First Nation Healing Lodge (operated by the Ochichakkosipi First Nation)
  • Waseskun Healing Centre
  • Buffalo Sage for Women (operated by the Native Counselling Services of Alberta)
  • Prince Albert Grand Council Spiritual Healing Lodge

For more information

Section 81 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) explains how healing lodges are managed.

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