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What is the National Healing Forest?

This is a unique initiative to create a network of forests and green spaces across Canada where Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples can come together in the spirit reconciliation to heal, reflect, meditate, talk, share, and build respect and understanding as a result of the Residential School legacy and the findings of the National Truth and Reconciliation report.


Why is this being done in a forest or green space?

Anyone who has walked in a forest or a park setting will feel better. Connecting to nature is important for our well being. Forests and nature can heal and create calm in our busy lives. A forest or green space is a natural environment to help heal the emotional wounds caused by the Residential School legacy. 


Is this a government-sponsored initiative?

No. This project was started by two Canadian citizens, Patricia Stirbys, a Saltaux Cree lawyer, and Peter Croal, a geologist from the settler culture. Peter and Patricia met during a healing walk in Ottawa prior to the release of the Truth and Reconciliation report. It was during this walk that they came up with this idea and wanted to work together to make it happen.


Does the National Healing Forest provide funding for a local healing forest?

No. Communities, organizations, and individuals are invited to seek funding for a healing forest from municipal, provincial, or federal sources. 


Where can a healing forest be developed?

On municipal, provincial, federal or private lands, subject to the right approvals being granted. It can be any size – from just a few trees and plantings to a large forest. The size and design of the healing forest are up to the individual, group, or communities involved.


How will others know about locations of healing forests?

Our website has a map that shows where public healing forests are located. If a healing forest is developed on private lands and the owners wish to protect their privacy, that wish will be respected.


How much does a healing forest cost?

It depends on its scale and size. A local group may decide to use an existing site and would only need funds for some benches and some signage; others may decide to seek funding to design a dedicated space. 


What would National Healing Forests provide?

Peter and Patricia can provide ideas, comments, and contacts. A logo and plaque (view the design here) can be placed in each healing forest.


What are some ideas to create a healing forest?

The possibilities are limitless and up to the imagination of the individuals and communities involved; they might include:


  • trees planted by the surviving families of a deceased child, a missing and murdered woman or girl,
    or a child lost to the Sixties Scoop or child welfare system

  • a mass planting of trees by non-indigenous Canadians to demonstrate unity and commitment to reconciliation

  • a tree for each child who died while attending a residential school; a tree for each of murdered and missing Indigenous woman and girl; a tree for each child lost to the Sixties Scoop and child welfare – as more names become known, more trees could be planted

  • an outdoor gathering place for ceremony, reflection, meditation, and prayer

  • walking trails

  • monuments or memorials with the known names of the children who died and the murdered and missing Aboriginal women

  • areas set aside for the growing of medicinal or sacred plants

  • a children’s park as a place to honour the love of our children and celebrate resilience

  • a place where visiting Elders present talks, teachings, and stories, or where a survivor could share and reflect on their experience



The premise behind the National Healing Forest is that trees are known to hold natural properties that promote reflection, spirituality, peace, and health. Each section honours the spirit and memory of the departed, provides an increased sense of belonging and connection to culture, provides an increased understanding across cultures, and offers increased hope for the future of our children and our country.

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