The genesis of Aboriginal Services began in 2000 when Dr. Peter Menzies boldly sought three years of funding from the City of Toronto to create a culturally responsive service to meet the mental health and addiction needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis clients at CAMH. The next decade was formative, as the service grew with core funding to employ an Aboriginal Manager of the service, Aboriginal Social Workers, and include an Elder on staff for client cultural care. As time progressed, more Aboriginal clients and patients across the hospital requested healing ceremonies including the Sweat Lodge in order to break old patterns and to empower the journey to well-being.
By the spring of 2015, meetings with the CAMH Redevelopment department yielded a land allocation dedicated to the development of a Sweat Lodge. In order to prepare for the sacred work ahead, two ceremonies were offered by the Elder and staff members of Aboriginal Services and Aboriginal Engagement and Outreach.
The first was a ceremony for Mother Earth, seeking permission to build and for Her blessing on the healing that lay ahead for clients. The message received from Mother Earth was to ensure that Medicine Gardens would be present on this land with sage, cedar, sweetgrass and sacred tobacco growing for the benefit of First Nations, Inuit and Métis clients and CAMH staff members.
The second ceremony was for the Ancestors – to enlist their guidance and to ensure that they were at a state of rest given the long history of CAMH on this land, beginning as the Provincial Lunatic Asylum in the 1850’s.
Once the ceremonies were completed, the land was ready and construction began on the grounds in Spring of 2016.