Funders pull out of Yellowknife’s Healing Drum Society

The Healing Drum Society in Yellowknife is refusing to confirm whether it’s closing its doors, but both Health Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories say they’re no longer funding programs there.
Funders pull out of Yellowknife’s Healing Drum Society 2:17

It’s been a rocky month for the Healing Drum Society in Yellowknife, but board members are still refusing to tell the CBC what exactly happened, and whether the agency is closing.

A spokesperson for Health Canada says the agency came to the conclusion that the Healing Drum Society in Yellowknife is no longer capable of delivering its residential school survivor support program.  

It stopped funding for the program at Healing Drum earlier this month, and is now looking for a different organization to take it on.

The Government of the Northwest Territories came to a similar conclusion about the Healing Drum, terminating its contract with the society for a healing program for men who have used violence in relationships.

“They no longer had the staff to deliver the program,” says Adrian Barrieau, who works in the GNWT’s justice department. “We came to the mutual conclusion that they were no longer able to perform the delivery of the program.”

Barrieau says his department hopes to continue the program, but nothing has been secured.

Lydia Bardak is executive director of the John Howard Society.

She helped design the men's healing program and is disappointed it’s no longer running.

“There's been a group of men who have benefitted from that,” she say. “My concern is that these men still need ongoing support.”

'Where am I going to go?'

Epikghout Ekpakohak is one of those men.

He’s a residential school survivor who was taking part in the men’s healing program — until he received a call from his counsellor telling him the society was closing.    

“Before she said anything she said ‘Are you sitting down?’” Ekpakohak says. “And I automatically went to ‘What happened, what's going on?’ And she said, ‘We're shutting down, we're being shut down.’”

Ekpakohak says conventional counselling options can't replace the traditional type of healing the society offered.

“A lot of survivors, such as myself, and a lot of people out there don't have a place to go to anymore. Where am I going to go for my trauma? And it's so vital to aboriginal people, this healing process,” Ekpakohak says.

“I can't go anywhere else and feel comfortable. I'm free to express my thoughts and feelings because the staff that I know I do trust. I've come to know them, as friends, as a good support system.”

The Healing Drum refused to comment on the loss of funding or its staffing situation.