A traditional Indigenous ceremony, which included smudging and the lighting of a sacred pipe, kicked off an important event at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie on Tuesday morning.
RVH officials honoured National Indigenous Peoples Day today with the signing of letter of relationship between the hospital and the Indigenous Health Circle — which is an initiative of the Barrie Area Native Advisory Circle (BANAC) — during an event hosted in the Georgian Drive hospital's Outdoor Healing Space.
“As health-care providers, community members and Canadians, we have a role to play in reconciliation. This special day also marks the formation of a relationship we’ve been working together to build since 2018,” Janice Skot said in her final official event as RVH's president and chief executive officer.
“Expanding the relationship across the health centre signifies our commitment to working with our Indigenous partners to ensure appropriate spaces, programs and protocols throughout the organization," she added.
Skot said RVH embraces diversity and inclusion, and is proud of the work it has undertaken to respect the distinct needs of Indigenous communities.
“The Indigenous Health Circle and the Barrie Area Native Advisory Circle have been invaluable partners and community leaders as we reflect and learn how best to meaningfully advance efforts in reconciliation," she said.
Tuesday’s signing of the letter of relationship builds upon the work the already achieved together while also renewing a shared commitment to continue to improve and advance care, emphasize the importance of chronic disease prevention, develop new health programs and accelerate first system-level changes for First Nations, Inuit, Metis and Urban Indigenous peoples in Simcoe-Muskoka, Skot noted.
“Together, we have implemented a smudging policy throughout our health centre, we continue to expand our Indigenous patient and family navigation services, which includes an Indigenous navigator for the cancer program, and soon two more Indigenous navigators will be added to support other clinical programs,” Skot said. “This space, the smudging grounds for RVH, provides everyone an opportunity to pause and reflect on Indigenous history and reconciliation in Canada.”
Today was a great day to be Indigenous, BANAC chairperson and president Lynne Monague-Sauve told the crowd.
“It is significant that we are doing this signing on National Indigenous Peoples Day, a day that is dedicated to honouring the contributions and cultures of our First Nation, Inuit, Metis and Urban Indigenous people in Canada," she said. "RVH’s leadership is committed to learning about the importance of Indigenous history, celebrating the richness of our cultures and achievements and reflecting on how best to meaningfully advance efforts in reconciliation.”
Roberta Manitowabi-Roote, who works as an Indigenous patient navigator with the Simcoe-Muskoka Regional Cancer Care Program, told BarrieToday she believes it’s extremely important to have a culturally safe space for Indigenous people to come to and receive proper health care.
“I hope patients and staff will be able to come together and we just really want to see the culture of our Indigenous people in the hospital. We want to see everybody feeling safe," she said.