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Truth and Reconciliation: As paediatricians, how can we make a difference?

Posted on January 18, 2018 by the Canadian Paediatric Society | Permalink

Topic(s): Advocacy

Dr. Radha Jetty and Dr. Sam Wong

Residential schools were created in Canada to separate Aboriginal children and youth from their families, remove them from their culture and assimilate them into the dominant euro-Canadian culture.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) spent 6 years travelling to all parts of Canada hearing testimony from more than 6,000 witnesses affected by the residential school experience. The Commission's final report includes 94 calls to action needed to move past the dark history of residential schools and toward reconiciliation.

Many Canadians wonder what they can do to be an active participant in reconciliation. One of the first steps is to read the report, and ask yourself how you can contribute. We've pulled out a few recommendations that have particular relevance for child and youth health, along with some suggestions for action. If you have other ideas, or are already taking action, please tell us your story. 

Recommendation #3
All levels of government should fully implement Jordan's Principle

What you can do: Be aware of Jordan's Principle and use it to hold provincial and federal governments accountable when funding disputes prevent Indigenous children from receiving adequate and equitable health care. More information is available here

Recommendation #19:
The federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal peoples, should establish measurable goals to identify and close health gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, and publish annual progress reports and assess long-term trends.

What you can do: Consider identifying and researching ways to close gaps in health care outcomes between non-Indigenous and Indigenous patients. Be aware of documents on research with Indigenous populations. This website has an extensive list. Be especially aware of the OCAP (Ownership, Control, Access, Possession) guidelines around the First Nations data (see

Recommendation #23:
Governments should increase the number of Aboriginal professionals in health care; retain Aboriginal health care providers in Aboriginal communities; and provide cultural competency training for all health care professionals.

What you can do: Support and mentor Indigenous students coming through your practice and hospital. Complete a cultural competency course on Indigenous health issues to improve your ability to care for these patients. Many free online courses are available, including this one at the University of Alberta. Attend cultural awareness lectures/sessions in your region as various Indigenous groups will differ in customs and history. Check online for those that can be done online or in person. Many are available at no cost. 

Recommendation #24:
Canadian medical and nursing schools should require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues.

What you can do: Support medical and nursing schools' move to provide more courses on Indigenous health issues. If none are available, advocate for their creation and implementation. Consider auditing the course if you have not completed one previously. The CPS is developing curriculum on Indigenous child and youth health that will be launched in 2018.

Dr. Radha Jetty is Chair of the CPS First Nations, Inuit and Métis Health Committee, and is Physician Lead of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario's Inuit Health Program. Dr. Sam Wong is the former chair of the CPS committee, and an Associate Clinical Profressor at University of Alberta. He practices in Edmonton and Yellowknife.


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Last updated: Jun 5, 2018