‘They now have a fighting chance’: New youth healing lodge to be built in Thompson, Man.

A first-of-its-kind youth healing lodge is being built in Thompson, Man.

According to the province, the lodge is meant to be a resource hub that’ll provide more youth justice resources up north.

Read more: Manitoba to close Portage la Prairie youth jail

The government is investing $2 million into the project.

“As youth justice continues to change in Canada, there is a need for programs that provide broader community support,” says Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen.

Read more: Manitoba advocate for children and youth renews call for system change

“The Thompson healing lodge is a first in Manitoba and will help ensure that supports are closer to home and community connected. Manitoba is honoured to partner with MKO in this initiative.”

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The province says they’ll look to Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. on implementing and operating the lodge.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba to close Portage la Prairie youth jail' Manitoba to close Portage la Prairie youth jail

Manitoba to close Portage la Prairie youth jail

“Historically there has never been a support system to guide people transitioning back to their community,” says Grand Chief Garrison Settee of MKO.

“That’s why it’s very exciting to see this happening in the North because they now have a fighting chance.”

Read more: Nearly half of youth incarcerated are Indigenous: Statistics Canada

According to Minister Goertzen, the lodge’s main focus is to help and support at-risk youth, rather than keep them locked in a cell.

“If you’re going through challenges, if you can have somebody walking beside you with those challenges, you’re probably going to do better,” he says.

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Read more: Children in welfare system most likely to enter youth justice system: U of M study

“When we simply have youth incarcerated for the duration of their sentence and then we release them without any support, it’s hard to imagine why on their own, they necessarily would just get into a better path.”

The lodge will undergo a series of phases, wherein new programs will become available with each tier.

Read more: Manitoba’s First Nations children face barriers in nearly every socioeconomic factor: report

The programs will start with open-custody correctional services, followed by an expansion to include a healing lodge, enhanced mental health and addiction supports, employment and skills training, and community justice resources.

“We’re not only treating the symptoms, but the root causes of why young people exhibit these kind of traits that get them in trouble,” says Grand Chief Settee.

Read more: Death of First Nation’s young man inspires calls for support with mental health and drugs

“Most of that has to do with a lot of pain that they’ve carried through intergenerational trauma, but this is a facility that will bring healing to them culturally and with teachings from elders and also dealing with their anger, dealing with their grief, dealing with their pain–and we can do this in the North.”

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