Background Content

Call to Action # 79: Commemoration (79-83)

The National Healing Forests Initiative 

June 10, 2024

In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Final Report, the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools of Canada and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry. 

The vision of the National Healing Forests initiative is to establish a network of Healing Forests across the country, where survivors and families of the Residential School legacy, as well as all Canadians, can come together to heal, do ceremony, reflect and meditate. Within each Healing Forest, all individuals, including survivors and their families can share and better understand the legacy of the residential school system, and move forward in a positive way. A forest, or a quiet outdoor green space is a wonderful place to heal and connect to nature.


The idea for the National Healing Forests initiative transpired during the Walk for Reconciliation held in Ottawa in May 2015 – a walk that attracted 10,000 people prior to the release of the Truth and Reconciliation report by Senator Murray Sinclair. Peter Croal and Patricia Stirbys struck up a conversation about the possibility of a healing forest, similar to those found within countries like Japan and South Korea. The conversation led to Peter and Patricia sharing ideas and developing the project concept. 

Anyone wanting to create a Healing Forest can simply form an organizing committee.  That organizing committee may choose to develop a Healing Forest on public land. If so, they would contact the managers of the public land (e.g City Council) and seek permission or invite them to consider developing a Healing Forest. A committee could consist of friends, colleagues, neighbors and family. It is essential to seek Indigenous representation from the territory where the Healing Forest will be situated to help with the development of the Healing Forest. 

Funds to develop a Healing Forest may come from municipal, provincial and federal governments or NGO communities. 

A Healing Forest can also be created on private land.  The landowner can determine the design of the green space, as well as sourcing the funds that may be needed. A private owner may also wish to form a Healing Forest Committee, ensuring Indigenous involvement, to help with developing the design of the Healing Forest.  

There are no rules as to how a Healing Forest is to be developed. Rather, the design of the Healing Forest on private or public land is determined by the ideas and creativity of the committee and land manager or owner. 

Whether a Healing Forest is developed on private or public lands, it would be appropriate to dedicate the Healing Forest with a ceremony that has Indigenous participation. Each Healing Forest developed to date is unique and different – some have simple designs, while others are more elaborate. It all depends on the needs and vision of the respective community or landowner. With this approach, it is anticipated that the creative ideas generated by each community will result in unique and rich approaches to healing and reconciliation, using forests and green spaces as the foundation.

The National Healing Forest Initiative has collaborated with many community groups and individuals, including the David Suzuki Foundation and Royal Canadian Geographical Society.  There are currently 21 established Healing Forests across Turtle Island.

In 2022, the David Suzuki Foundation partnered with the National Healing Forests Initiative to support 16 community groups that are establishing local healing forests. Again in 2023, the David Suzuki Foundation supported another 33 community groups and ran a series of networking workshops to help them on their Healing Forest journeys.

To find out more, read this story and visit (English) and (French)

You may view all the established and potential Healing Forest spaces, along with FAQs and more information about the National Healing Forests Initiative here: Home | Healing Forests (

Community Involvement 

This is a grassroots, community-developed, community-led and community-managed process.