Healing Forests

We work to support a nationwide network of green spaces dedicated to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Healing Forests rekindle our understanding, love and respect for each other and nature

From Gibsons, B.C., to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, individuals and communities have come together to dedicate green spaces big and small to the first inhabitants of the land and their descendants, to educate people about this country’s tragic past and to offer people a chance to begin their own personal journey toward reconciliation. They’re called Healing Forests, and in a time of overwhelming despair and fading hope about the state of our nation and planet, they offer tangible actions every one of us can take to promote health, healing and community.

The David Suzuki Foundation has partnered with the National Healing Forest Initiative to expand the current network of 10 healing forests to 20 and beyond. Combining reconciliation and healing into one immersive experience, each forest is different. Today, one is on the grounds of a church. Another is along a public trail. But they all bring people together to connect, share and learn about those we share these lands with.

SAVE YOUR SEAT FOR THE HEALING FORESTS WEBINAR ON MAY 1!

Spending time in nature is good for your health. Now, it’s also a deliberate act of reconciliation.

Jode Roberts, Manager, Rewilding Communities

How Healing Forests all began

In the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions’ final report in 2015, Saulteaux Cree lawyer Patricia Stirbys and geologist and international development consultant Peter Croal founded the National Healing Forest Initiative. They didn’t prescribe what a Healing Forest should look like. All they asked was that it be a quiet green space dedicated to the spirit of reconciliation.

Together, Patricia and Peter expanded the network of Healing Forests to 10 throughout the country. The David Suzuki Foundation is proud to be partnering with them to provide seed grants to people and groups that want to establish Healing Forests in 10 more communities.

Learn more about the National Healing Forest Initiative and its co-founders

By establishing a Healing Forest, anyone can take that first step to bring people together, help them reflect on this country’s tragic past, and connect with nature and each other.

Patricia Stirbys, Co-founder, National Healing Forests Initiative

A look inside Healing Forests. Get inspiration for your own!

Garden at susnset

Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan Healing Garden

Stewarded by members of the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Group (IPSG) at St. Matthew’s United Church in Toronto, this small green space is home to over 100 species of native plants. Both the land and the water are acknowledged in signage that situates the garden between the “lost rivers” of Taddle and Garrison Creeks, and identifies the four sacred medicines – tobacco, sweetgrass, sage, and cedar – that grow here.

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Perth Healing Garden

Perth Healing Forest

To mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, over 200 people attended a gathering at the Perth Healing Forest in Last Duel Municipal Park on September 30, 2021.

View more pictures from the sacred event

Riverside Knowledge Path

Riverside Knowledge Path

The Riverside Knowledge Path is tucked away behind Riverside School in Albert Bridge, Nova Scotia. An accessible gravel 2km walking path guides you through the surrounding Acadian forest. Read a book from the comfort of one of the wooden benches, gather in the Mawita’nej Learning Pergola, or make music at the Sule’katike’l Sound Garden. The Path is home to a Healing Forest and a sharing circle, a space where students, staff, and visitors can come together in the spirit of reconciliation.

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Kapabamayak Achaak Healing Forest

Kapabamayak Achaak Healing Forest

Located in St. John’s Park, Winnipeg, the Kapabamayak Achaak (“Wandering Spirit”) Healing Forest received its Spirit name as a gift from Peetanacoot Nenakawekapo, an Anishnaabe Elder. The gathering space, based on the medicine wheel, provides space for quiet reflection and ceremony. A sacred fire pit is available. Four large grandmother stones mark the four directions. The steering committee is working with neighbouring schools and communities to develop a living curriculum to learn about medicine plants and Indigenous teachings.

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Fitch Bay Healing Forest

Fitch Bay Healing Forest

On October 7, 2018, the Fitch Bay Healing Forest was inaugurated with ceremony, respect, and community. It’s the first Healing Forest to be created in Quebec and on private land – another first. Its champion, Terry Loucks, established the forest on the two-and-a-half hectares he owns in order to preserve his spiritual ancestors’ legacy and heal people as it did him.

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How a Healing Forest helps build relationships

Forests in Canada

01

42%

of Canada is forest

02

347 million hectares

of forest land in Canada

03

9%

of the world’s woodland is in Canada

How do forests heal?

Forest bathing, or the act of immersing all your senses in nature, is a practice developed in Japan in the 1980s. Known as shinrin-yoku, it’s a form of eco-therapy rooted in knowledge many cultures have long embraced: spending time in nature is good for your health.

Science backs it up. A 2019 study of the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing on working-age people found “significant positive effects on mental health, especially in those with depressive tendencies.”

Another study found forest bathing significantly enhanced “people’s emotional state, attitude, and feelings towards things, physical and psychological recovery, and adaptive behaviors; and obvious alleviation of anxiety and depression.”

The next time someone tells you to take a hike, take them up on their offer. Better yet, invite them to come along and start a healing journey together.

David Suzuki

Help nature thrive

When nature flourishes, we benefit. It’s up to all of us to make sure Canada’s party leaders know we must respect, protect and restore nature so it can sustain all life.

Take action now