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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

2017 Chapin A’sin Elder Vern Harper Award

​By Nadia Green, Aboriginal Engagement and Outreach

In 2012, the Chapin A’sin Elder Vern Harper Award was first awarded to Vern Harper, and this year our deserving candidate was announced on National Aboriginal Day. Celebrations were held on Thursday, July 13, 2017 in Ottawa with CAMH representatives present.

The Vern Harper Award is nomination-based and is presented annually to an Aboriginal helper or practitioner in Ontario who demonstrates excellence in using culturally-based treatment approaches to help Aboriginal people experiencing a mental health and/or substance use issue. Every year the Vern Harper Award moves between the regions of Ontario to provide the opportunity to recognize individuals and the work they do in their region. This year’s award was for individuals in East Region.

This year’s award recipient is Reepa Evic-Carleton. Reepa lives in Ottawa and was born in Cumberland Sound, Nunavut. Reepa relocated to the community of Pangnirtung at the age of five. While living in the North, Reepa worked as a Housing Manager and a community Social Worker. In 1989 she moved to southern Canada, where she has spent more than 20 years working with Aboriginal communities as a support worker, trauma and addiction therapist, and coordinating activities, both locally and internationally, in the areas of substance abuse and fetal alcohol syndrome.

 Reepa Evic-Carleton
Reepa accepting her award at a celebration dinner.

After accepting the award, Reepa shares her experience by saying “I have been overwhelmed and totally humbled by receiving the Chaplin A'sin Elder Vern Harper Award. It is a privilege to work with the community and to be trusted by many wonderful people. I have worked in this field for many years but have never expected to be recognized. I have many people to thank, for believing in me and supporting me in the work that I do. This recognition is greatly appreciated”.

Reepa has presented on numerous occasions to support her work. Specifically she has presented on an Inuit specific model of healing and recovery at the most recent Healing Our Spirit Worldwide conference in New Zealand. She has also presented to physicians and nurses at the Royal Ottawa Hospital (ROH), Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and to the Student Counseling program at Algonquin College to help improve their capacity to provide culturally safe mental health services to Inuit.

Reepa helped publish manuals on Inuit well-being and mental health through her partnership with Meeka Arnaqaq, a respected Nunavut Elder and Healer and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. She was also instrumental in the development of an Inuit specific version of the Mental Health First Aid program with contributions to Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami's (ITK) Inuit Mental Wellness Action Plan in order to help improve access to services for Inuit.

Previously, Reepa worked as the Treatment Coordinator for Tungasuvvingat Inuit’s Mamisarvik Healing Centre in Ottawa. She helped co-found Mamisarvik’s national eight-week program in 2002, working as a Trauma-and-Addiction Therapist. She works with youth yearly at Arctic Hope, a project managed by her son Steven, delivering workshops for the young people and a community healing circle for the community of Kinngait, located in the North.

Reepa continues to provide support and healing to the Inuit community through her current position at the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre (OICC) as the Family Well-being Support Coordinator, leading weekly healing circles for women; whereby attendance has increased by 200 per cent. She has also delivered the first Inuit-specific parenting program (Inuguinniq) at the OICC with excellent results for biological and foster/adoptive parents of Inuit children.

Reepa’s colleagues say she, “has never wavered in her dedication to the health and well-being of her family, her community, of her people and of her Inuit culture, language and Inuit values (Inuit Qaujmajatuqangit: Inuit knowledge past, present and future)”.

“In many ways she is unique in her capacities as a mental health specialist in the Ottawa area… [and]… successfully taken the best of western mental health best practices and imbued them with the power of Inuit culture and traditions to make them relevant and effective for the Inuit clients and families with whom she works, focusing on recovery from the years of oppression and colonization Inuit have experienced and the resulting traumas that have so negatively impacted individuals, families and communities”.

In closing, Del Jacko, Manager of Aboriginal Engagement and Initiatives for Aboriginal Engagement and Outreach says “In recognition of her commitment to using culturally-based treatment approaches in her work with Aboriginal people experiencing mental health and/or substance use issues, the team at Aboriginal Engagement and Outreach is honoured to have Reepa Evic-Carleton accept the Vern Harper Award.”


Published on July 26, 2017

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