There is always something new to learn was the message for healthcare providers as they gathered to create safer care for Indigenous people.
Healthcare professionals attended the Cultivating Indigenous Knowledge to Create Safe Spaces to learn more about how to create space for the culture in their practice and their organizations.
The event was put on by the North Bay Regional Health Centre, Timmins and District Hospital (TADH) and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). There were 60 in-person participants, as well as 30 online from all over northeastern Ontario.
Presenters from all over the country shared personal experiences, knowledge and lessons on how important connection to culture can be when treating Indigenous people.
“It’s been heavy, there’s a lot of information being thrown at you,” said Justin Polson, who travelled from Timiskaming First Nation to present at the event. “There’s a lot to take in but there’s a lot of good information.”
Melissa Gill, who is part of the Indigenous advisory committee for the CHMA, and Polson presented traditional experiences to the group. She said that there is always more to learn, regardless of education or experience level.
“If you have a degree that says you’re an expert or a specialist, it’s a challenge, I would imagine, to open up your mind and think you still have stuff to learn,” said Gill. “So that’s my hope coming here, making it easier for future generations, hopefully.”
That is the hope of the organizers as well.
“Seeing how many people came together and prioritized their time to learn more and expand their knowledge has been inspiring to me,” said Erin Kennedy, who's with the North Bay Regional Health Centre and helped organize the event. “It’s really validated why we came to Timmins in the first place.”
Patrick Nowak from the Timmins and District Hospital echoed the sentiment.
“This is going to further conversations and recognize that the health care system as a whole needs to do more,” he said.
That message had an impact on the attendees, in particular, Ojibwe artist Brian Woboose’s experiences with the residential school system and how his reconnection to his culture helped him succeed.
“I felt very honoured to have listened to these stories,” said Jenna Wilson, who works for the Porcupine Health Unit. “Cultural safety is something we value and want to imbue in our organization and in staff capacity.”
Nowak that the experience and the education received at the event was
“It’s been a very good experience and it just shows that we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We’re looking forward to making TADH a safer space for people if they’re seeking care.”