Indigenous Mental Health: Imagining a Future Where Action Follows Obligations and Promises


  • Constance MacIntosh Associate Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University



This article considers what it would mean if Canada fulfilled select existing commitments and obligations concerning the mental health needs of Indigenous peoples, as identified through current programs and recent jurisprudence: that is, where would we be if Canada carried through on existing commitments? After identifying the role of law in perpetuating poor mental well-being, it assesses programs for First Nations and Inuit peoples and determines they are unlikely to be effective without operational changes and responsive funding. The article then turns to the situation of Metis and non-status First Nations and the implications of Daniels v. Canada for changing the status quo – both by requiring appropriate mental health supports, and by dismantling the racist legal logic that has long undermined the mental well-being of non-status First Nations and Metis persons, by positioning them as not counting as true Indigenous peoples. The article concludes that merely fulfilling current state obligations could bring considerable short-term gains, and some long-term gains, for the mental well-being of Indigenous peoples in Canada.