Courageous Conversations

Buiding strength through non-judgmental and open communication

Led by and for Indigenous Peoples, Courageous Conversations builds strength-based community support during a time of unprecedented challenges. Courageous Conversations, hosted by Corrina Chase, is a free public webinar series aimed at Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia affected by the dual health emergencies of the toxic drug crisis and COVID-19.

Corrina Chase is Métis from the Algonquin Territory and is the joint BCCSU/FNHA Addictions Care Partnership Manager. Her educational background includes a focus on Counselling, Justice Studies, and Conflict Analysis and Management, paired with over twenty years of service in the public sector.

Chase shares that the name “Courageous Conversations” reflects the bravery it takes to talk to loved ones, and health professionals about their drug use. “When people cultivate the courage to talk about their drug use, they begin to alleviate the shame associated with drug use. By sharing intimate stories of how the shame from stigma and lateral violence hindered their ability to ask for help. These conversations, in a way, liberate drug users to understand their experiences and help others, and this is how we start to save lives,” says Chase.

The series aims to enact change through discussion and storytelling. By telling stories, participants work together to navigate drivers of substance-related harm, including racism, discrimination in the health care system, and intergenerational trauma as a result of colonialism.

Chase explains that the supportive nature of the series is also key in opening up dialogue.

“By engaging in courageous conversations through non-judgmental and open communication, we can change perspectives, restore relationships, and help people become curious to begin these conversations.”

Participants are invited to join two sessions, with the first webinar addressing the disproportionate impacts of substance-related harm on Indigenous Peoples due to the continual legacy of colonialism including residential schools, the 60s scoop, the ongoing millennial scoop, and lateral violence*. The second webinar features a panel of experts including people with lived experience of substance use and their family members.

While addressing the harms of the ongoing harms of colonialism, Chase notes that the series centres Indigenous strengths and resiliency while promoting culture as a pathway for wellness. One example is shifting language away from lateral violence to teaching and embedding “lateral kindness” **.

“We weave in traditional teachings and healing in ways that support people on their journey. We embed Indigenous knowledge and worldview so people are encouraged to lean to their culture for healing if they don't have tools.”

The host of the webinar elaborates on the importance of strengths-based thinking and language. An example Chase provides is shifting from the word “overdosing” to “experiencing a toxic drug supply” or drug poisoning. This change in language acknowledges that the root of this epidemic results from an unregulated drug market and encourages a deeper understanding of the person’s experience.

When asked about her plans for the future of the series, Chase emphasizes that the philosophy of the webinar series has always been collaborative and informed by its participants. “The idea is not to helicopter in and leave.” A plan is in the works for a toolkit to be developed across communities so that they can begin hosting their own Courageous Conversations. The toolkit breaks down a step-by-step process for meaningful conversation and transformative dialogue by incorporating traditional Indigenous practices while addressing a number of different themes.

Courageous Conversations is beyond just a webinar, but rather a platform that values the voice of each participant. Chase elaborates, “We want to empower and liberate Indigenous Peoples so they can support their own self-determination. They feel heard because they know we care. This offers them encouragement and meaning.”

* Lateral violence is complex in nature and connected to colonization, racism, and intergenerational trauma. Lateral violence is expressed in many forms, such as gossip, verbal and non-verbal assaults, passive and aggressive behaviours, blaming, shaming, attempts to socially isolate others, demeaning activities, and threatening or intimidating behaviour.

** Lateral Kindness, as quoted from FNHA, is an approach to addressing lateral violence. It is based on Indigenous values that promote social harmony and healthy relationships. Lateral kindness uses First Nations teachings about respect, fairness, and the importance of relationships to create an environment built on a foundation of kindness.”