This week – on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021 – Canada will mark its first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. We have asked all PHSA team members to take time this week to reflect on this day, and further their learning and education about the historical and ongoing mistreatment of Indigenous People and the meaning of reconciliation.
We have also historically observed this day as Orange Shirt Day – a day to remember and reflect on the tragic history and ongoing impacts of residential schools, to honour the thousands of Indigenous children who did not return home and to honour the survivors, their families, and communities.
Residential schools are a significant and devastating part of Canada’s story; yet, colonial practices and the mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples extends even more broadly and further back in history. In considering how we – as a country, a province, an organization, and as individuals – can advance reconciliation, we must first recognize the deep roots and impacts of colonization. We must be guided by and committed to B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, the calls-to-action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Reconciliation is not a box to tick or a lengthy list of recommendations, but rather, a journey that will take place over generations. PHSA is deeply committed to this journey.
The obligation for leading change lies with each of us individually, and we invite all staff to continue their learning journey and reflect on the individual actions that can be taken to address the ongoing impacts of colonialism and systemic racism.
In the health system, we know harm continues to happen with the existence of systemic racism embedded in policies, practices and institutions. The evidence is clear that Indigenous people experience poorer care outcomes and have fewer opportunities for meaningful employment. PHSA welcomes its first vice president of Indigenous Health & Cultural Safety, Joe Gallagher, to our executive leadership table to support our commitments to advance Indigenous cultural safety, humility and address anti-Indigenous racism. We are grateful for the leadership and guidance Joe will offer our organization, as well as the leadership and guidance of our Elders, Indigenous Health team, Indigenous colleagues and partners.
We are deeply committed to unearthing the deep roots of colonial practices. We have made the development of a policy, and supporting processes and education, to combat Indigenous-specific racism an organizational priority. We have also recently welcomed eight new Indigenous patient navigators to our organization, with a focus on delivering supportive health care services to patients who identify as Indigenous.
As health sector leaders, we will hold our teams and each other accountable for this work. We will move forward on this journey together, united in kindness and compassion and guided by our core value of respect.