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Indigenous Health at the CFPC


National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR) Statement

The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) recognizes the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR) on September 30th, which is also known as Orange Shirt Day. This day holds profound significance as we collectively acknowledge and reflect upon the painful history of the residential school system and its devastating impact on Indigenous Peoples, families, and communities across Canada.

As family physicians and family medicine learners, it is essential that we address anti-Indigenous racism in the health care system and beyond. We must continue to support Indigenous patients and their families, many of whom have been touched by the residential school experience and have faced systemic racism.

In 2022, the CFPC made a Declaration of Commitment to Cultural Safety and Humility in Health Services Delivery for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis People in Canada. Through this public and long-term commitment, we have pledged to collaborate with the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada to promote culturally safe care and to actively address racism experienced by Indigenous people in accessing health care across Canada.

“The Indigenous Health Committee of the CFPC has led important work within our organization for the past decade, including guiding us through the Declaration of Commitment process, creating a series of case studies to advance Indigenous principles in health care, and delivering multiple presentations on this critical topic,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh, the CFPC’s Executive Director and CEO. “We are grateful for their wisdom and expertise as we acknowledge the deep-seated flaws of the current system and amplify Indigenous voices in our work toward reconciliation.”

As we pause on September 30th to listen to, learn from, and stand with Indigenous Peoples, we encourage you to:
  • Wear an orange shirt or an orange ribbon from an Indigenous business or company, such as the Orange Shirt Society or an approved retailer, to show your support
  • Consider volunteering your time at First Nations, Inuit, or Métis-led events marking the observation of Orange Shirt Day
  • Watch the Unforgotten, a short film about the health and well-being of Indigenous people in Canada and reflect using the Indigenous Health Committee resource list for the film

Please be mindful of Indigenous colleagues during this sensitive time and consider ways you can advance learning opportunities within your working environment that do not ask more of Indigenous colleagues.

“National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is a painful day for many of us,” said Dr. Sarah Funnell, the CFPC’s Director-at-Large, member of the Indigenous Health Committee and a First Nations family physician. “At the same time, seeing seas of orange on or around this day reminds me of the humanity that exists amongst us. It is a small step toward reconciliation. NDTR is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 80 of the 94 Calls to Action that were released in 2015. It was not until after the discovery of unmarked graves at Kamloops residential school in May of 2021 that NDTR was formally recognized by the federal government. There is still more to reconcile.”

The CFPC will host the first in a series of Virtual Talking Circles for CFPC staff and members on September 28, 2023, to acknowledge the importance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and reflect on what our commitment to cultural safety and humility means and its significance. The Virtual Talking Circle events will promote education, understanding, and discussion around Indigenous health and reconciliation.

We recognize this day can be difficult for Indigenous people, including Indigenous physicians, medical trainees and other health professionals, and staff. If you need support, please call the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.

CFPC Highlights Strengths-based Programming Across Canada

Strengths-based approaches to care emphasize the strengths and resilience of Indigenous peoples to address challenges and support well-being.

  • West Coast

    • In British Columbia, Sheway, which is run by Vancouver Coastal Health, is a unique outreach and wraparound program providing comprehensive health and social services to women who are pregnant and newly parenting living with or in remission from substance use.
    • Sheway is a Coast Salish word for ‘Growth’. The program embeds cultural practices into services and takes a woman-centered, harm-reduction approach to care. Sheway is closely connected to FIR (Families in Recovery), an inpatient unit at BC Women’s Hospital which has 13 beds for people who are pregnant and hoping to stabilize from substance use. Dr. Elder Roberta Price is one of the Elders who supports the patients on FIR and ensures patients are cared for in a culturally safe way.
  • Prairies

    • Knowledge Keeper Leslie Spillett is one of the founders of Ka Ni Kanichihk, which offers Indigenous-designed and led programs and services and has helped over 20,000 Indigenous people living in Winnipeg. At Ka Ni Kanichihk, ‘the greatness and gifts of all peoples are seen and honoured.’
      • The Manitoba Mino Pimatisiwin Model of STBBI (sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections) Care project is led by Ka Ni Kanichihk, which emphasizes systems change, enabling health leaders to implement culturally safe care and effective prevention, testing, and treatment activities for Indigenous people in Manitoba.
    • Elder Margaret Lavallee has been the Elder in Residence at University of Manitoba for over 15 years. She has a strong connection to her community of Sakgeen and to ceremony, and offers teachings and support for Indigenous students in health profession studies.
  • East Coast

  • North

    • Health navigators support and provide information to patients and their families to navigate the health care system and overcome barriers.
    • Jennifer Picek, RN, is an Inuvialuit Health System Navigator in the Northwest Territories. Read about Jenn’s important role.
    • Goba care is a grassroots Indigenous non-profit run by Melinda Laboucan, who also co-presented with the CFPC IHC as a family/patient partner at FMF 2022.
      • After the loss of her mother and sister, Melinda was driven to improve the experience of accessing care for individuals and families; when patients must travel to Edmonton to receive care, Goba helps them navigate the health system and supports them in their journey.

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