Towards Health and Reconciliation: Reflections from the Indigenous Health Conference

On May 26th and 27th I was fortunate enough to attend the Indigenous Health Conference at the Hilton Mississauga Meadowvale Hotel on behalf of the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health and The Sandbox Project

The conference provided a fantastic opportunity to learn about current initiatives to promote the health of indigenous communities from across Canada. There were over 750 engaged participants from across Canada and abroad. The conference also had interesting booths about different programs and services across Canada relating to indigenous health. There were several key speakers but my favourite talk was from Dr. Barry Lavallee, entitled “Removing Culture from Cultural Safety: Structural Challenges to Addressing Indigenous Health in Canada.”

The conference highlighted several key lessons:

  • Reconciliation and solutions must come from indigenous communities themselves. It is very important that the solutions come from within the communities, as they have the wisdom to be able to effect change in their communities.
  • The health of indigenous people has been affected by generations of colonialism and the history of the residential school system. Trauma has been passed down throughout the history of colonialism.  In order to improve the health of indigenous people, our society needs to recognize this history and move forward on a path of truth and reconciliation.
  • The health system needs to focus on indigenous culture and building trust rather than separating culture and health. It is important to realize that culture is a determinant of health and that we need to work to further bridge culture and health in indigenous communities.

I really enjoyed the conference and I am very grateful to The Sandbox Project for allowing me, through the YCRH, to attend as their representative.  I look forward to continuing to learn and engage in indigenous health issues with others from across Canada.

Madeleine Bondy is a postgraduate student who is interested in interdisciplinary qualitative health research. She has been a proud member of the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health for the last three years.