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VOL. 76 PART 2 MARCH 2018
psychiatric care; and her commitment to the AFHCC. The Elder then relied
on the passage reproduced above to describe what the AFHCC is and how
it will proceed. The judge began by asking the mother, whose two teenage
girls are in Ministry care, what she would like to talk about and how she is
doing with the wellness plan she had created with the help of the Elder and
the program coordinator in preparation for the family healing conference.
The conversation began with supportive comments on the mother’s
progress from the Elder, the program coordinator and the support worker’s
perspectives. It took some time, just over an hour, for the mother to appear
to relax and want to speak. When she did, she was able to describe difficult
early years in her life, involving incest, rape and the lifelong shame and
guilt she carries. The silence and attention in the circle were heartfelt. The
Elder, who was sitting beside the mother, moved her chair closer to her, gently
leaned into her and said, “It is my honour to walk with you. You were an
innocent child who walked in the light. The shame and guilt is not yours to
take.” The mother cried deeply, but there was a sense of relief in the tears—
there was a palpable sense of connection between the Elder and the mother.
The heartfelt conversation continued and, by the end of the conference, the
mother, who had been in denial and anger for a very long time, turned to
the Elder and said she was ready to try to work on her healing and wellness
The Elder provided a kind of listening that is present and free of judgment.
This listening allows for connection between Elder and mother that
creates space for the mother to grieve for and potentially remember her better
self. It is this quality of deep listening that can provide the mother with
the hope and will to take a first step. It can provide the catalyst for change.
All of us believe that this listening allows the court process to touch the lives
of this Aboriginal parent in a way that makes a difference.
INTEGRATING HEALING AND PARTICIPATION IN THE PROCESS
As detailed above, there are a number of participants at each conference,
each thinking and exploring ways to integrate the process with traditional
Aboriginal approaches to healing—a pioneering of new ways of integration.
One new tool is the project’s use of the healing and wellness plan. The
plan is based on a broad, holistic definition of its purpose. According to
Elder Jim Dumont: “Wellness from an Indigenous perspective is a whole
and healthy person expressed through a sense of balance of spirit, emotion,
mind and body. Central to wellness is belief in one’s connection to language,
land, beings of creation, and ancestry, supported by a caring family