I recently had the opportunity to participate in the San’yas: Indigenous Cultural Training Program offered by the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA). The purpose of this training is to “develop skills and promote positive partnerships between service providers and Indigenous people”. The training is primarily catered to and accessible to health practitioners and/or service providers in British Columbia.
From the outset, my impression of this cultural training program was that it is accommodating for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants. Indigenous participants are given the option to either take the training in an Indigenous-only cohort or join a cohort that is made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. As an Indigenous woman, I decided to participate in the Indigenous-only cohort, as I felt more comfortable to openly discuss the issues of colonization, attempted assimilation and the effects of these historic harmful policies in Canada with fellow Indigenous peers.
Based on my own lived experiences, it is extremely evident that the majority of Canadians are unaware or uneducated on the true history of Canada with regards to Indigenous peoples. There have been countless instances where I have had to undertake the labour of educating non-Indigenous people about different aspects of Indigenous histories and colonial traumas, and how Indigenous people continue to be affected and experience systemic racism today. From a young age, it was apparent that the true colonial history of Canada was purposely omitted from most formal educational institutions. This deliberate omission of Indigenous experiences and truth is harmful in a way that it perpetuates settler beliefs that societal inequality is non-existent.
There is a wide-range of information that is presented in the training, such as an overview of Residential Schools, the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child-welfare system, the historic assimilatory policies of the Indian Act and so forth. While much of this information is quite familiar, I was pleased to be exposed to a training program that is extremely transparent when it comes to discussing Indigenous histories in Canada, where the inclusion of elders or those with lived experience through pre-recorded videos enhanced the element of “truth-telling”.
I feel as though all working professionals Canada-wide, whether or not they are employed in the health services field, should be mandated to take the San’yas Cultural Training or a similar online training. It is undeniable that in 2020, laws and governmental structures in the societies of both the U.S. and Canada are being questioned or even denounced in some cases based on the perpetuation of systemic racism towards certain racialized groups – ignited by the tragic murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police in the US. Although Canada and the US are separate states with independent governmental structures, laws and policies, there are many similarities with regards to colonial histories and ongoing mistreatment and discrimination of Indigenous, Black and other People of Color (BIPOC).
The San’yas Cultural Training has done an impeccable job of challenging the erasure of Indigenous experiences in Canada. In just eight hours, the San’yas Cultural Training requires its participants to engage with various themes of Indigenous peoples and colonization in Canada, and by default, prompts critical personal reflection. It is an educational tool that should be utilized across the country in order to educate all working professionals, because it can contribute to changing attitudes and prejudicial behaviors toward Indigenous people and cause the general population to challenge existing structures that employ systemic racism. Eventually, my hope is for all people in our society to have access to a Cultural Safety Training Program; however, beginning with working professionals, especially those who employ service delivery to the public, seems like an appropriate place to start.
Questions? Comments? Get in touch.
Katsistohkwí:io Jacco, Research Trainee: [email protected]