Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 18: Health (18-24)

Creating Indigenous healing spaces at Hamilton Health Sciences

June 1, 2023
Makayla’s Room opened at McMaster Children’s Hospital in 2018. It is a dedicated space for families to learn about or participate in Indigenous culture.

NationTalk: Hamilton Health Sciences – Hamilton sits on the traditional territory of the Mississauga, Haudenosaunee and Anishnaabe and within the lands protected by the Dish with One Spoon wampum agreement. At Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), we are privileged to provide care on lands that Indigenous peoples have called home for thousands of years. We recognize and respect the presence and stewardship of all Indigenous peoples as keepers of this land.

Cultural safety should be the goal of an inclusive, equitable health-care system. Indigenous people, however, continue to experience racism, discrimination and culturally unsafe care within health-care settings. In Ontario, there is legislation that protects and permits the practice of Indigenous ceremonies, including in health-care settings; however, accessing ceremonial practices while receiving health care is a common barrier. To date, HHS has not had a dedicated space at each of our five hospital sites for Indigenous peoples to gather, take respite, and engage in traditional healing practices. This is changing.

Kelly Campbell

“In response to the voices of our community members and the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action for Healthcare, we are happy to share that together with Indigenous partners, HHS is developing dedicated Indigenous healing spaces across all of our hospital sites,” says Kelly Campbell, Vice-President, Corporate Services and Capital Development. “These are intended to be safe spaces where Indigenous staff, patients and family members can experience peace, ceremonial healing and comfort while at HHS.”

Planning to create these spaces is already underway and expected to be completed across all sites within the next 2 years, including the new build at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital.

Deena Klodt

“We are very grateful to the Indigenous community leaders who continue help us work toward creating a more culturally aware, safe and inclusive health care experience for Indigenous staff, patients and their families,” says Deena Klodt, an Indigenous patient navigator in the Regional Cancer Program based at Juravinski Cancer Centre, and co-chair of the Indigenous Healing Spaces Steering Committee alongside Campbell.

Why Indigenous healing spaces matter

Indigenous peoples in Canada, including those who live in Hamilton and surrounding areas, experience significant health disparities because of longstanding social, economic and political disadvantages experienced through colonialism. Enforced cultural assimilation by means of oppressive public policies, the loss of land, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and systemic racism continue to have negative impacts to the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples today.

At HHS, we are committed to providing culturally safe, inclusive and equitable health care and are working to eliminate racism and discrimination. The dedicated Indigenous healing spaces will positively impact the health outcomes of Indigenous peoples by reducing barriers to care, promoting cultural safety and contributing to a holistic approach to health and healing for Indigenous patients, families, communities and staff.

Partnering with local Indigenous stakeholders

A steering committee and site-based working groups have been formed at HHS with broad stakeholder participation, including Indigenous community representatives from:

  • Urban Indigenous Partners
  • De dwa da dehs nye s Aboriginal Health Centre
  • Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation
  • Six Nations of the Grand River

The site-based working groups, under the leadership of the steering committee, are responsible for establishing design and infrastructure principles, as well as cost estimates for the development of dedicated Indigenous healing spaces at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre, Hamilton General Hospital, St. Peter’s Hospital and the new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital. Makayla’s Room opened at McMaster Children’s Hospital in 2018.

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