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What is the National Healing Forests Initiative?

NHFI aims to create a network of forests and green spaces across Canada where Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples come together in the spirit reconciliation. These Healing Forests will be spaces that promote healing, reflection, meditation and sharing. They will build respect and understanding about Canada's Residential School legacy and the findings of the National Truth and Reconciliation report.

Why is this being done in a forest?

Walking in a forest or a natural setting makes us feel better. Connecting to nature is increasingly important for our well-being. Forests and nature can heal and create calm in our busy lives. Simply put, spending time in a forest or green space can help us heal.

Is this a government-sponsored initiative?

No. This project was started by two Canadian citizens, Patricia Stirbys, a Saltaux Cree lawyer, and Peter Croal, a geologist from the settler culture. Peter and Patricia met during a healing walk in Ottawa prior to the release of the Truth and Reconciliation report. It was during this walk that they came up with this idea and wanted to work together to make it happen.

Where can a Healing Forest be developed?

Healing Forests can be established on municipal, provincial, federal or private lands, subject to necessary approvals being granted. It can be any size – from just a few trees and plantings to a large intact forest. The size and design of the Healing Forest are up to the individual, group, or communities involved.

How can I find where Healing Forests are located?

Our map shows where established and proposed Healing Forests are located. If a Healing Forest is developed on private lands and the owners wish to protect their privacy, that wish will be respected and will not show on the map.

How much does a Healing Forest cost?

It depends on its scale and size. A local group may decide to use an existing site and would only need resources for some improvements like pathways, seating, artwork, sculptures or signage; others may decide to seek funding to fully design or re-design a dedicated space.

Does the NHFI provide funding for Healing Forests?

No. Communities, organizations, and individuals are invited to seek funding for a Healing Forest from municipal, provincial, or federal sources. In 2022-23, the David Suzuki Foundation offered support to 50 groups interested in establishing Healing Forests. Stay tuned for more updates in 2024.

What resources does NHFI provide?

Peter and Patricia, founders of the National Healing Foresrs Initatives, can provide ideas, comments and contacts. NHFI will also provide digital artwork for a Healing Forest plaque for each Healing Forest.

What are some ideas for a Healing Forest?

The possibilities are limitless and up to the imagination of the individuals and communities involved. A Healing Forest might include: ·Trees planted by the surviving families of a missing and murdered woman or girl, or a child lost to the Sixties Scoop or child welfare system; ·A mass planting of trees by non-indigenous Canadians to demonstrate unity and commitment to reconciliation; ·A tree planted for each child who died while attending a residential school; a tree for each of murdered and missing Indigenous woman and girl; a tree for each child lost to the Sixties Scoop and child welfare – as more names become known, more trees could be planted; ·An outdoor gathering place for ceremony, reflection, meditation, and prayer; ·Walking trails; ·Monuments or memorials with the known names of the children who died and the murdered and missing Aboriginal women; ·Areas set aside for the growing of medicinal or sacred plants and trees; ·A children’s park as a place to honour the love of our children and celebrate resilience; ·A place where visiting Elders present talks, teachings and stories, or where a survivor could share and reflect on their experience. The premise behind the National Healing Forests Initiative is that trees are known to hold natural properties that promote reflection, spirituality, peace and health. Each section honours the spirit and memory of the departed, provides an increased sense of belonging and connection to culture, provides an increased understanding across cultures, and offers increased hope for the future of our children and our country.

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