Nothing about us, without us.

Unity Health is working with community members to better understand the care experiences of Indigenous peoples and how we can improve our practices to create more equitable, safe and compassionate environments across the three main hospital sites and community-based clinics.

Indigenous peoples around the world commonly encounter barriers, including intentional and unintentional anti-Indigenous racism, when they are ill and require hospital services. The First Nations, Inuit and Métis Community Advisory Panel (FNIM CAP) formed in 2009 at St. Michael’s Hospital with the goal of  advising on the creation of culturally safe, accessible and high-quality health care across all Unity Health sites. 

More recently, the hospital has embraced the health care ‘Calls to Action’ contained within the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and is wholeheartedly supporting Indigenous-led initiatives across Unity Health that will improve Indigenous health. To help lead this important work and build the foundations for change, Dr. Janet Smylie was hired in 2022 into a new interim position as the Strategic Lead of Indigenous Wellness, Reconciliation and Partnership. Over the past year, Dr. Smylie, the FNIM CAP, and hospital leaders have updated its terms of reference, developed a three phase Indigenous health human resource strategy, created job descriptions and begun hiring roles, and commenced work with clinical leaders to define and advance Indigenous specific care and referral pathways to facilitate service access.

They also designed an innovative shared Indigenous decision making forum where Unity Health’s leadership team will be accountable to the Board and the Indigenous community members/ partners for Indigenous health issues and outcomes.  

“For non-Indigenous settlers – those who have arrived in the past 500 years to this land we currently call Canada – there are really three keys to reconciliation. The first is to open up your mind and heart and learn the true histories and realities of First Peoples. The second is to move beyond talk and good intentions towards concrete actions that result in tangible change. The third is to ensure that the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us’ is respected,” said Dr. Smylie.

What you can expect:

Unity Health Toronto will hire a permanent full-time Director of Indigenous Wellness, Reconciliation and Partnership and is working on building a core Indigenous wellbeing team that will work together with hospital leaders, staff, the FNIM CAP, and Indigenous patients and community leaders  to develop a more comprehensive strategy to improve Indigenous health and well-being across the network and begin to advance Indigenous service access and quality of care.

In phase two, staff, physicians, learners and volunteers will continue to have the opportunity to take the San’yas Anti-Racism Indigenous Cultural Safety Training course, an eight-week online program designed to increase knowledge, awareness and skills for working with and providing healthcare services to Indigenous communities. More than 500 people at Unity Health have already completed the program. 

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