UBC Medicine Responds to TRC Call to Action, Apologizes for Harms to Indigenous Peoples


UBC Medicine issued a formal apology to Indigenous peoples and launched its response to Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action 18-24 in a webinar on Friday afternoon.

Friday’s event, UBC’s Faculty of Medicine’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action, was used to announce UBC Medicine’s Next Steps to support and empower indigenous peoples in health care, and had a strong focus on reconciliation.

The event comes after Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Allard law professor and director of the Indian Residential Schools History and Dialogue Center, released her In full view report last december who detailed numerous cases of anti-Indigenous racism in the BC healthcare system, as well as the recent discovery of undocumented children remains in residential schools across Canada. The two subjects were frequently mentioned throughout the speeches of the speakers.

Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot made a sobering statement about how close these residential schools and other colonial systems are to modern times.

“Think back to 1996. That’s when the last residential school closed in this country,” she said. “In pop culture, the Backstreet Boys were in the Top 40 and Friends was a successful television series.

President Santa Ono, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of UBC’s Okanagan Campus Lesley Cormack and Dean of Medicine and Vice President of Health Dermot Kelleher stressed the importance of recognizing the role that the faculty of medicine has played a role in perpetuating the systematic abuse of indigenous peoples.

“This is a widespread failure of a health system, rooted in colonialism, and the responsibility for this failure also extends to institutions, including UBC, which have perpetuated the methodologies and teachings that have contributed to an equitable system of care, ”said Cormack.

Kelleher also apologized for the damage done to Indigenous people by UBC Medicine.

“As the university has done before us, we formally apologize to all concerned for the role the medical school has played in causing and perpetuating these systems and causing persistent damage on their part,” did he declare.

Kelleher described several steps the faculty will take to rectify his past, including expanding the UBC 23 24 Indigenous Cultural Safety Training Program and hire more Aboriginals for faculty and senior management positions, among other things.

UBC Chancellor Steven Point thanked Kelleher and UBC Medicine for taking the time to draft a thoughtful response to the TRC’s calls to action, but said more needs to be done.

“The indigenization of a university is a step forward, but it cannot and should not be the only thing we do,” he said.

“Essential to take the burden of teaching off the shoulders of students”

Dr. Rebekah Eatmon led a panel of UBC Indigenous students, faculty and staff on how UBC Medicine currently supports Indigenous peoples and what needs to be done in the future.

First Nations Primary Health Care Medical Director Dr. Terri Aldred and UBC Medicine Director of Indigenous Student Initiatives James Andrew emphasized the importance of hiring and recruiting faculty and native students. Aldred noted that having greater Indigenous representation creates a community of support for all.

“Having a safe place for people to come together, including for learners but also for faculty members, is another way that can help build support,” she said.

UBC Medicine Center of Excellence for Indigenous Health Co-Director, Dr. Nadine Caron praised the Indigenous health curriculum currently offered, but said the BC government needs to ‘commit to allow [UBC Medicine]”To further expand this program.

Céline Hounjet, currently a medical student at UBC, added that adding more relevant courses would ease the burden on Indigenous students to act as educators of their culture.

“The creation of courses like the 23 24 program… is essential to take the burden of teaching off the shoulders of the students, allowing the students to re-engage with the material in a learner role”, a- she declared.

For those looking for support at this time, call the Indian Residential Schools National Crisis Line at 1.866.925.4419.


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