A formal complaint regarding the treatment and experience of an Elder at Cariboo Memorial Hospital has resulted in the signing of a Declaration of Commitment with Interior Health (IH), First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), and First Nations leaders to embed a culture of safety and humility starting with hospital and community services in Williams Lake.

Interior Health Photo

Corporate Director of Aboriginal Health for Interior Health, Bradley Anderson says the Declaration which was signed on the first of a two-day Cultural Safety and Humility Forum held at the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation earlier this month, is a historical opportunity for Interior Health to be part of, and to learn from and to listen to their First Nation partners.

He says the work will definitely be a journey.

“We know at Interior Health we have a long way to go to addressing the needs of our Aboriginal population.”

“There are some things that we will be able to start addressing immediately around educational opportunities, around cultural safety. We’ll look at more long-term planning about what aboriginal specific programming needs to occur within Cariboo Memorial Hospital and the surrounding area, what does it mean to hire Aboriginal people within our hospitals and facilities. We know that leads to culturally competent care as well.”

Anderson says a local task force made of leaders both with Interior Health and local First Nation partners will be formed within the next month to start actioning some of the recommendations that came from the working group on day two of the event.

“The Elder’s son gave life to the Declaration of Commitment when he shared his mother’s experience of what he called racism and neglect within the health care system,”¬†IH and FNHA said in a media release.

Another community member and his wife recounted their son’s escalating mental health crisis and lack of support from the health and justice system. Both speakers agreed to share their stories in hopes that no other family will suffer similar experiences.

“I want to honour the courage of the families who have shared their stories. While it can be painful, being heard is the first step towards addressing these issues. We encourage more First Nations families to share their stories in the hope this care doesn’t have to happen within our health system,” said FNHA Chief Executive Officer Joe Gallagher. “This work together with our communities and Interior Health partners creates an excellent opportunity for all of us to do our part to change the narrative of this story. It is a chance for all of us to listen and learn on this journey of cultural safety and humility.”

Xat’sull Chief Donna Dixon called on all parties to take the Declaration of Commitment seriously and to work for the betterment of each community. She reminded the health authorities to include First Nations in their work.

“We want to be part of change and transformation. We want a bigger say in health-care services in our community. After all, no one knows the needs of our communities better than we do.”

Copies of the Declaration of Commitment will be posted in highly visible locations at IH health sites
in the Cariboo.

“When there’s actually a visible Declaration it shows that Interior Health is trying to move towards making the right steps, are committed to this work…,and it also is a good reminder for our staff at those facilities as well what our leadership has signed off on and is committed to,” says Anderson who notes that this is the first Declaration of Commitment¬†on cultural safety Interior Health has signed with First Nations .

(With Files from Interior Health and First Nations Health Authority)