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CAMH opens Aboriginal Sweat Lodge for patients

CAMH is the first hospital in Ontario to have a fully operational Sweat Lodge

TORONTO, June 23, 2016 – Today the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto celebrated the opening of an Aboriginal Sweat Lodge and traditional ceremonial grounds. CAMH is the first hospital in Ontario to have a fully operational Sweat Lodge.

Led by CAMH’s Aboriginal Services, the Sweat Lodge will offer patients the opportunity to engage in a form of therapy based on the values, beliefs and traditions of Aboriginal peoples.  Sweat Lodges are an ancient healing tradition for Indigenous Nations throughout North America and throughout the world in many cultures and regions.

“Having a Sweat Lodge at CAMH will enable us to provide enhanced Indigenous healing ceremonies as part of clients’ treatment plans,” said Renee Linklater, Director of Aboriginal Engagement and Outreach at CAMH. “This is an exciting example of how hospital-based health services can incorporate Indigenous healing processes and create more opportunities for clients to achieve balance and wellness in their lives.”

Sweat lodge opening group shotThe opening of the Sweat Lodge at CAMH was a historic moment in the history of our Aboriginal Services. From L-R: Diane Longboat, Elder, Aboriginal Services; Rob Wemigwans, Therapist, Aboriginal Services; David Zimmer, Ontario Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation; Adam Vaughan, MP, Spadina-Fort York; Dr. Renee Linklater, Director, Aboriginal Engagement and Outreach; Toronto Councillor Mike Layton; Han Dong, MPP, Trinity-Spadina; Dr. Catherine Zahn, CEO of CAMH

The Sweat Ceremony is a purification practice, intended to cleanse and heal the body and mind. Clients can participate in the Sweat Ceremony after progressing through earlier stages of teachings and healing.

It’s important that clients are mentally and spiritually ready for the Sweat Ceremony and that they are engaged in recovery that includes cultural knowledge,” says Diane Longboat, Elder with CAMH’s Aboriginal Services. “There is deep emotional and psychological healing when clients release the negative patterns in their lives and begin to understand their gifts – the whole person they are meant to be.”

In addition to the Sweat Lodge, the new ceremonial grounds at CAMH also include a Sacred Fire and medicine garden. The Sacred Fire will be used for therapeutic group sessions and cultural learning. Staff, volunteers and clients will increase their own cultural knowledge by receiving teachings that will prepare them to assist with fire keeping and ceremonies. 

“We are at a point in time when Canadians are much more aware of the historical trauma experienced by Aboriginal peoples,” said Linklater. “We also need to recognize that part of that trauma is the loss of culture and traditional healing practices. This is why it’s so important to offer services that are culturally relevant and appropriate.”

Construction of the Sweat Lodge and development of the ceremonial grounds is supported by a gift from the Geoffrey H. Wood Foundation.

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The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital and a world leading research centre in this field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental illness and addiction. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit or follow @CAMHnews on Twitter.

Media Contact:
Kate Richards
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
(416) 595-6015

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