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SickKids

Indigenous Health Strategy

As an organization, SickKids has much to learn about the experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada, as well as how the diverse cultures, educational backgrounds, and histories of our staff shape the care we deliver. A reconciliation statement on the hospital’s history with Indigenous peoples was a starting point in 2018 for SickKids’ reconciliation journey. As work continues under our SickKids Indigenous Health Strategy, we are committed to collaborating with partners to identify, prioritize, and implement improvements to ensure accessible, culturally appropriate services for Indigenous children and families in our own backyard, and across the province.

Indigenous artwork including our land acknowledgement statement in the centre.

Land acknowledgement

We would like to acknowledge the land on which SickKids operates. For thousands of years it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, Toronto is home to Indigenous Peoples from across Turtle Island. SickKids is committed to working toward new relationships that include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, and is grateful for the opportunity to share this land in caring for children and their families.

Indigenous artwork including our land acknowledgement statement in the centre.

Artwork with the SickKids land acknowledgment has been installed in the hospital and in the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning. Emily Kewageshig, an Ojibwe Woodland artist, was commissioned by SickKids to paint the land acknowledgement plaques in honour of our commitment toward reconciliation. 

Guiding principles

The SickKids Indigenous Health Strategy developed five key guiding principles:

  • Self-determination: Partner with Indigenous stakeholders and communities toward development and execution of Indigenous health initiatives at SickKids.
  • Truth and reconciliation: Interpret work through the historical context of Indigenous peoples (in Canada and at SickKids), consistent with calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Canada.
  • Cultural safety and sensitivity: Learn from Indigenous peoples, be respectful of traditions, use appropriate language, and be open-minded in development work.
  • Honesty and transparency: Communicate with openness, clarity, and integrity with Indigenous partners, staff, and the public.
  • Efficient use of resource: Capitalize on the knowledge of local partners and minimize duplication.

Priority areas and initiatives to date

The SickKids Indigenous Health Strategy is guided by six priorities or areas of work that have been implemented through various initiatives. Future initiatives being explored include but are not limited to: internships for Indigenous students, enhanced Indigenous health-related policies (e.g., traditional ceremonies, traditional healing practices), strengthened linkages with Indigenous services organizations in the community, an Indigenous-friendly ceremonial space, partnerships to share Indigenous support staff with downtown hospitals, and engagement strategies to increase Indigenous youth and staff in the health system. Directions will continue to evolve as SickKids learns more from Indigenous partners.

SickKids acknowledges harmful aspects of the hospital's history with Indigenous peoples as a first step on the path of reconcilation. Read the August 7, 2018 statement.  

An Indigenous centre is being planned for the new patient care tower to provide a gathering, ceremonial and healing space. A spiritual space during the interim construction phase of Project Horizon, our campus redevelopment project, will be available.

Indigenous artwork is being commissioned for the hospital. The hospital is also being explored to identify and remove any artwork, books, movies, toys and other items that may be offensive. To date, six wall murals in older parts of the facility have been covered.  

Indigenous cultural safety training

More than 550 staff have registered for the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety online training, and a plan to provide broad cultural safety training for staff and volunteers through the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy is being developed. 

In March 2018 the leadership team completed the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, a participatory education exercise about the experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The hospital is currently exploring options to engage more staff in this exercise.

Indigenous Days of Significance

The following days of significance are honoured annually at SickKids through staff education rounds: Bear Witness Day, National Indigenous People’s Day, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and Orange Shirt Day.

 

Smudging ceremony policy

A policy that facilitates open-flame smudging ceremonies in patient rooms was approved in 2022 and additional polices are planned for other Indigenous medicines and ceremonies.  

Land acknowledgement policy

In September 2018, the hospital adopted a land acknowledgment policy. The policy provides guidelines for the where, when, how, and who of how the policy should be used, as well as supporting material to ensure understanding of the history and rationale behind it.

Artwork with the SickKids land acknowledgment has been installed in the hospital and in the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning. Emily Kewageshig, an Ojibwe Woodland artist, was commissioned by SickKids to paint the land acknowledgement plaques in honour of our commitment toward reconciliation.

Patients and families have access to an Indigenous Health Navigator and Patient Experience Specialist. To contact Bryant Peters, please email bryant.peters@sickkids.ca or patient.experience@sickkids.ca.

The Indigenous Health Navigator and Patient Experience Specialist draws on Indigenous ways of knowing and healing to support Indigenous children and families and to help advance SickKids' Indigenous Health Strategy. In this role, Bryant will work closely with staff to provide direct support to Indigenous patients and families.

Bryant will be able to support Indigenous patients and families by:

  • Having traditional Indigenous healing ceremonies with you at the hospital  
  • Connecting you to Elders and healers for spiritual and emotional support
  • Giving you information about health services and local community resources (such as sweat lodges and sacred spaces) 
  • Explaining how to report concerns about care and services
  • Helping to report and address your concerns about care and services 

Alongside this work, Bryant will provide guidance to SickKids staff on providing culturally safe care and support. 

Deepening relationships with Indigenous communities to better support the health-care needs of local and remote communities is underway. A Community Advisory Circle is being developed that will have a tri-chair model, led by an Indigenous Elder, African Elder and SickKids EDI Executive Lead. This entity will sit with a dotted line of accountability to and from the Board of Trustees, with seats for board trustees and the President & CEO.

Co-chaired by Melanie Laking, Indigenous Advisor and parent, the Indigenous Health Council supports and advances key priorities aimed at creating a culturally safe care environment for Indigenous patients and families.

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