Healing Forests

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

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

From Gibsons, B.C., to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, individuals and communities are coming together to dedicate green spaces 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 they offer tangible actions that promote health, healing and community.

The David Suzuki Foundation is partnering with the National Healing Forests Initiative to expand the national network of Healing Forests. Combining reconciliation and healing into one immersive experience, each Healing Forest is different. Today, one is on the grounds of a church. One is on a private land. Another is in a woodlot next to a school. But they all bring people together to learn about those we share these lands with.

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

Jode Roberts, Manager, Rewilding Communities

How Healing Forests began

In the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 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.

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

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

How to get involved

In 2022-23, the David Suzuki Foundation is partnering with the National Healing Forests Initiative with the goal of growing the national network of Healing Forests. This spring, the Foundation announced it would provide small grants to groups proposing Healing Forests. From dozens of applicants, 16 Healing Forest projects were selected. Below is a list of the projects receiving support this year.

The local organizers receiving funding in 2022 to support establishing Healing Forests:

  • Ajax Pickering Hospital Healing Garden, Ajax, Ont.
  • Birch Path Healing Forest, Gloucester, Ont.
  • Central Manitoulin Public School Wellness Orchard, Mindemoya, Ont.
  • Cheam Healing Forest Trail, Rosedale, B.C.
  • Eagle Lake Farabout Peninsula Healing Forest, Eagle Lake, N.W. Ont.
  • The Friendship Trail Healing Forest, St Adolphe, Man.
  • ila’latl Healing Forest, Whycocomagh, N.S.
  • īnimin sīpīsis – Blueberry Creek Healing Forest, Leslieville, Alta.
  • Kinoo wiiyaa minoyaa Healing Forest, M’Chigeeng, Ont
  • Navan Healing Forest, Ottawa, Ont.
  • Silver Tip to Wedzin Bin Trail Project, Gidimt’en Checkpoint, B.C.
  • st’elmixw salnachiya Healing Forest, Sechelt, B.C.
  • Trail of Song Healing Forest, Lumby, B.C.
  • ts’ukw’um Healing Forest, Sechelt, B.C.
  • Waupoos Healing Forest, Prince Edward County, Ont.
  • Westminster United Church Healing Garden, Regina, Sask.

This map includes the 16 Healing Forest projects that are receiving support from the David Suzuki Foundation in 2022. Each group has proposed a reconciliation-based Healing Forest project for their community. DSF is supporting the groups in partnership with the National Healing Forests Initiative.

Stay tuned for more information on these proposed Healing Forest projects and for details on how to apply for funding in 2023!

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

Garden at susnset

Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan Healing Garden

Stewarded by members of the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Group at St. Matthew’s United Church in Toronto, this small green space is home to more than 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.

Learn more

Perth Healing Garden

Perth Healing Forest

To mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, more than 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 two kilometre 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.

learn more

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 a place 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.

Learn more

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.

Learn more

How to establish a Healing Forest

Since 2015, Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities have been coming together to develop their own Healing Forest ideas. The National Healing Forest Initiative has left it to communities to determine what their Healing Forest would look like and how it would function. The only proviso is that each Healing Forest be established and used in the spirit of reconciliation, healing, shared understanding, and respect.

For more information, check out the National Healing Forest Initiative FAQ page.

Go take a hike! It might just heal you

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