Recognizing the value of Indigenous healing practices and making them available for Indigenous patients where requested was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 22:
“We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.”
Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba is deeply committed to taking meaningful steps towards reconciliation and responding to the TRC calls to action.
The legacy of residential schools profoundly affects Indigenous peoples in all spaces, including healthcare. As a key aspect of colonialism until as recently as the late 1990s, residential schools created generational poverty and tragic social injustices, leading to disproportionately poor health outcomes that continue to this day.
In Manitoba, Indigenous children are three to five times more likely to be affected by diseases or conditions that need ongoing care, which often means they and their families visit HSC Winnipeg Children’s Hospital for years. Up to 60 per cent of the kids served by the hospital are from Indigenous communities across Manitoba, Nunavut and Northern Ontario. Kids like Janessa, who had to leave her home in Pukatawagan and relocate with her family to Winnipeg for months as she underwent treatment for kidney disease and ultimately a kidney transplant.
In 2018, we reached out to Indigenous leaders to learn the best approach for engaging the Indigenous community and supporting reconciliation efforts, which led to recruiting the Foundation’s first Indigenous Board member, Rebecca Chartrand. Heather Berthelette, CEO of Tribal Councils Investment Group, has also since joined the board.
Rebecca helped form the Indigenous Advisory Circle (IAC) to the Foundation, a group of leaders from First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities across Manitoba who generously share their wisdom and counsel, including the importance of Indigenous worldviews within the hospital and the projects Foundation donor’s support.
Dr. Melanie Morris, Canada’s first Indigenous pediatric surgeon, and a member of the IAC, says, “Our medical service needs to create space for Indigenous ways of healing, including the many practices that support health and well-being found among Indigenous peoples.”
As a result, the Foundation is raising funds to build the hospital’s first Indigenous Community Healing Space, which will be a place for kids and families to feel safe, connect with each other, and nurture their whole self – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – while they are away from their home communities. When complete, this project, led by Dr. Morris, will mean a great deal to thousands of kids like Janessa each year.
And the newly dedicated Travis Price Children’s Heart Centre features a stunning mural by Ininew and Anishinaabe artist Peatr Thomas. Called Strawberry River, the work weaves in teachings (did you know the strawberry represents the heart in some Indigenous communities?) with “eye-spy” elements to engage kids in learning more. We are grateful to the IAC for their wisdom and support in helping to create culturally safe spaces in the hospital.
Foundation staff and board have participated in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, sessions on Jordan’s Principle, and the Indigenous Canada program offered by University of Alberta (it is excellent; I highly recommend it for all Canadians). We collaborated with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs earlier in the pandemic to create a special Spirit Bear-Dr. Goodbear mask that was distributed to kids in First Nations communities across Manitoba and via hospital clinics and Children’s Emergency.
More recently, the Foundation worked with the board, the IAC, and staff to create a land acknowledgment that uniquely and authentically represents our commitment to ReconciliACTION. This land acknowledgment is used to open Foundation events and meetings and is an ongoing reminder of our responsibility to serve all kids today and in the future.
There is still much to learn and even more to do. Foundation staff and board are committed to this journey, as we walk together with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit on a path of reconciliation and healing.
To learn more, and to read the Foundation’s new land acknowledgment, visit Goodbear.ca/reconciliACTION.
Stefano Grande is the president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba.