This past year has seen the Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health at Women’s College Hospital steadily building – building partnerships with Indigenous communities and organizations across the province, building capacity and a multi-disciplinary team and even building a new dedicated space for healing, education, and ceremony. In short, they have been building toward a future of reconciliation in healthcare.
First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities face some of the greatest ongoing inequities in healthcare. A large part of this is due to a long history of deeply rooted systemic racism that continues to this day. Guided by four strategic priorities – culturally inclusive policy and system transformation; anti-racism and cultural safety training and education; governance and leadership transformation; and Indigenous client care and outcomes – the Centre aims to change this.
Ensuring Indigenous peoples have an equitable healthcare experience can often be reflected in the physical space – from including Indigenous art to providing a place to smudge. In November 2020, the Centre partnered with the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto to open the Gathering Place at Women’s College Hospital. The space provides a dedicated area for Indigenous learners, staff, faculty, community members and partners from across organizations to safely access traditional medicines, exercise Indigenous ceremonial practice rights and engage with Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Traditional Practitioners and Educators. Providing a space designed to care for the mind, body and spirit is a big signal to the community that they are being considered and that their traditions, values and practices are seen to be equally important.
The Gathering Place also serves as a dedicated space for the Centre’s growing team. New team members include a Manager of Indigenous Education, a Senior Administrator and Knowledge Carrier, a Research Manager co-leading a National Digital Health Evaluation project, a Project Manager and Indigenous Communications Specialist, a Knowledge Keeper and Healer, and a post-doctoral fellow leading an environmental scan of the Indigenous anti-racism impact at Women’s. Through this multi-disciplinary team, the Centre was able to launch its first Indigenous Summer Mentorship Program (gr 9-10) partnership with the Office of Health Professions Student Affairs and the Office of Indigenous Health (both U of T). The Centre is now poised to continue building upon the strong partnerships already established within the community, engaging with Indigenous leaders and broadening its scope in new and existing areas of focus, from Indigenous environmental health to influencing policy and practice in healthcare and research with the ongoing support from donors including RBC Foundation, Hold best Foundation, the Slaight Family Foundation, the Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and the Karen Green Charitable Trust.
Beyond the walls of the hospital, the Centre is also developing a first of its kind virtual resource hub that hosts trauma-informed, culturally sensitive health information and tools for Indigenous communities from trusted Indigenous sources. With the support of a $200,000 donation from the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation to Women’s College Hospital Foundation, the virtual hub will directly support healthcare practitioners, hospital staff, learners, students, patients, partners and as many as 10,000 community members through direct partnerships and at least 50,000 indirectly. The virtual space will also promote healing through joyful art, literature infused practices and knowledge sharing. The hub will serve as a beacon for Indigenous learners, practitioners and community members as well as a valuable resource that are crucial to reconciliatory transformation within our health system for all current and future healthcare providers.