Indigenous Peoples in Canada continue to experience health disparities due to the legacy of colonization and ongoing racism. We must do better, which involves Indigenous Peoples leading the way forward.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is announcing a new, long-term goal to advance more equitable health care in allyship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. It will serve as the North Star for our work over the next two decades.
The CMA’s Indigenous health goal:
Indigenous Peoples achieve measurable, on-going improvements in health and wellness, supported by a transformed health system that is free of racism and discrimination; upholds Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination; values, respects and holds safe space for Indigenous worldviews, medicine and healing practices; and provides equitable access to culturally safe, trauma-informed care for all First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
This goal is a balance of the different perspectives, experiences, priorities and stories shared by members of the CMA’s Guiding Circle, a group of 16 Indigenous leaders and knowledge-keepers convened over several months to steer our work on tangible and meaningful changes within health care.
The Indigenous philosophy of a circle stresses equality and the sharing of power — an inclusive approach to ensure every person’s voice is heard.
“This goal is a bridge between where we are and where we want to be in the future. Indigenous Peoples — patients, their families and their communities — have had their voices devalued and dismissed in regard to our own health care. The Guiding Circle is part of changing that.” — CMA President Dr. Alika Lafontaine, Guiding Circle member
Values embedded in the Indigenous health goal include:
- Recognizing that self-determination and connection to the land are central to the health and well-being of Indigenous Peoples
- Aspiring to eradicate racism and discrimination in the health system, including its treatment of Indigenous health care learners and professionals
- Being centered in allyship
- Valuing a strength-based approach, honoring the agency and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples
- Promoting cultural safety to dismantle the effects of white privilege and addressing racial power imbalances
- A shared vision that is long-term and high-level to be broad, but not limiting
- An inclusive and flexible approach so that all Indigenous Peoples can see themselves included with its scope
- Valuing “two-eyed seeing,” acknowledging Indigenous worldviews and medicine as equally important dimensions of health and health care
- Promoting accountability to track the goal over time
The Guiding Circle’s important work represents a milestone in CMA’s journey of truth and reconciliation. This spring, CMA President Dr. Alika Lafontaine is leading a series of intimate discussions with Indigenous patients, providers and leaders on how we can move forward, together.