A core approach of PAN’s work is our dedication to ongoing learning so we may do our best alongside member groups, partners, and allies. This includes learning about cultural safety and accountability to Indigenous and First Nations people who have been subjected to ongoing discrimination and racism since European settlers colonized Indigenous territories. PAN is committed to meaningful, respectful, and accountable work, as individuals and as an organization. We humbly acknowledge we are not an authority on cultural safety, but we aim to be part of creating more equitable environments for all.
We recognize that there is much work to be done to challenge racism and discrimination against all people of colour in Canada. This page focuses on improving relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and advocating for equity.
Please consider this page a work in progress. There is no way we can represent all the good resources available, or the work being done by many to dismantle systemic racism. However, we want to provide some of the resources and concepts that PAN staff have used in thinking about our goal of advancing Indigenous cultural safety.
PAN is committed to meaningful, respectful, and accountable work. We humbly acknowledge we’re not an authority on cultural safety, but we aim to be part of creating more equitable environments for all.
What is Cultural Safety?
Committing to cultural safety requires looking deeply to see where change is needed so that communication, programs, services, organizations and systems are free of racism, discrimination and stigma against Indigenous people. The First Nations Health Authority of BC (FNHA) states that cultural safety “results in an environment free of racism and discrimination, where people feel safe when receiving health care.” The Cultural Safety & Humility page on the FNHA site is a collection of the materials from their Creating a Climate for Change initiative. Resources include print materials, videos, webinars on demand, and promotional material to strengthen and share cultural safety information. This information can be used by frontline organizations in examining their practices.
What is Indigenous Cultural Safety—and Why Should I Care About It? Perspectives from three of the people who worked on the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training (Provincial Health Services Authority).
Talking About Reconciliation and Decolonization
There are different ways people talk about making changes to the systemic inequities and racism that exist against Indigenous people. Some refer to this work as reconciliation. Reconciliation Canada, an Indigenous-led organization uses the term in their work of “engaging Canadians in dialogue and transformative experiences that revitalize the relationships among Indigenous peoples and all Canadians.”
There are also people who believe reconciliation may be the wrong word, as it implies there was once a good relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people at some point in time in Canada, which isn’t the case.
Decolonization is another word that is commonly used and that can have different meanings for people. See this panel of Indigenous leaders discuss how decolonization applies in their thinking.
Key Terms: Reconciliation, Indigenization, Decolonization, and Resurgence
Written by a professor at Western University, this piece provides a brief overview of (and debates surrounding) reconciliation and decolonization, as well as Indigenization and resurgence. While it is used to describe universities’ responses to the TRC’s Calls to Action, it is helpful to our understanding too.
In A Brief Definition of Decolonization and Indigenization, Bob Joseph writes, “It must be acknowledged that there is not a homogenous Indigenous worldview, and that each Indigenous nation or community will have their own worldview.”
At PAN we listen to and respect various perspectives, so you may see the words reconciliation and decolonization used in our work along with other words used to describe this work. We acknowledge though, that these terms do not work for all.
A Look Across Time
The In Plain Sight review (2020) found “a BC healthcare system with widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people. This stereotyping, discrimination, and prejudice results in a range of negative impacts, harm, and even death. Indigenous women are particularly impacted.” The consultation process gathered people’s stories, examined current efforts and failures to create cultural safety in BC, and provided 24 recommendations to confronting Indigenous specific racism in our healthcare system.
“Health care for Indians, such as it was, was motivated by a number of factors that range from keeping as many patients ‘interned’ as possible to maintain government funding, to ensure a steady number of subjects for medical and nutritional experiments, and to ensure that the European population was protected from exposure to ‘Indian tuberculosis.’” (Bob Joseph)
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, including the 94 Calls to Action (2015) took on the huge task “to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.” The Calls to Action include points that PAN and member organizations can address to support equity and dignity for Indigenous peoples and communities.
BC Endorses the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
British Columbia passed legislation (Bill 41) in November 2019 to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). BC’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act was developed in consultation and collaboration with the First Nations Leadership Council, the First Nations Summit, and the BC Assembly of First Nations. The Act provides a framework for implementing UNDRIP and requires the provincial government to take all necessary steps to implement UNDRIP.
What do You Really Know about the Indian Act? (2019) This Secret Life Canada podcast episode explains the creation of Canada’s Indian Act, how it’s been used to control every element of Indigenous peoples’ lives, and how it continues to have negative impacts today. Podcast, 44 minutes
Allies, Accomplices, and Accountability
As with reconciliation and decolonization, there are various terms used to describe the roles of non-Indigenous people who are working to confront racism and change inequities. The word ally may be used, or accomplice. Some Indigenous, Black, or other people of colour say that ally is an earned term, not a term a person should use to define themselves, and that accomplice is better. Some say it might be possible to use both.
Some Indigenous, Black, or other people of colour say that ally is an earned term, not a term a person should use to define themselves, and that accomplice is better.
While most of the following resources use the word ally, they also describe the active engagement expected of an accomplice.
Ally Bill of Responsibilities, developed by Dr. Lynn Gehl, of Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe descent. This list offers guidance on authentic, ongoing action to examine and address personal privilege and systemic oppression.
What Does it Mean to Act as an Ally? by Eaman Fahmy, Inclusive Program Designer, Pillar Nonprofit Network. Starting with four straightforward principles, the original inspiration for this resource is Kayla Reed.
Beyond Red Dress Day: Seven calls to action for Indigenous allies (2021). “Non-Indigenous people have a role to play in the fight for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people in this country.” By Brielle Morgan and published by APTN News.
Indigenous Ally Toolkit (2019) This resource from the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network offers a step by step tool for individuals and groups to examine their motivations, learning and actions to work alongside Indigenous people.
Treaty 7 Indigenous Ally Toolkit “An ally acknowledges that building relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is work of the heart. It requires a certain humbling to allow our hearts and minds to accept new, and often challenging, information.” Treaty 7 land is in what is commonly called Alberta.
Journal of Indigenous HIV Research, Volume 11. Navigating Allyship: What does it mean to work together in service to the community? This collection of pieces expands the notion of allyship beyond the Indigenous/non-Indigenous context to celebrate allyship in all of its forms. Available currently in preview format.
Towards a New Relationship: Toolkit for Reconciliation/Decolonization of Social Work Practice at the Individual, Workplace, and Community Level (2016)
This toolkit was produced to encourage and facilitate reflexivity and dialogue about reconciliation within the social work profession. The focus will be on respectful dialogue with colleagues and First Nations communities exploring pathways to restoring our relationships and new ways of working together.
Training in Cultural Safety
Upon being hired, each PAN staff member completes the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training developed by BC’s Provincial Health Services Authority. It is an on-line training program designed to enhance self-awareness, and strengthen the skills of those who work both directly and indirectly with Indigenous people.
PAN staff member Katsistohkwí:io Jacco reflected on their experience in the San’yas course: The Relevance of Indigenous Cultural Training in Health Services and Beyond.
All staff are encouraged and supported to take part in ongoing anti-oppression education.
We know there are many Indigenous-developed and Indigenous-led training opportunities out there… we wanted to share those that we ourselves have taken and can recommend. Again, these recommendations are by no means complete.
We welcome input from PAN member groups that have taken trainings they might recommend.
PAN Programs, Research and Resources
A part of our decolonizing work in the community is the Educators’ Forum. Offered since 2016, this annual conference focuses on building respectful and culturally safe connections with Indigenous people and communities. It is developed in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority, the Yúusnewas Indigenous youth program of YouthCO; BC Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver Coastal Health, and CATIE.
KnowledgeConnect Webinars On-Demand
Making Connections for Cultural Safety and Humility. In this KnowledgeConnect dialogue the topic was how to advance cultural safety through humility, sensitivity, and skills development.
Harm Reduction and Healing in Indigenous Communities. Hear about different approaches to harm reduction work, supporting communities to share their strengths and stories.
MIW is an Indigenous-focused, community-based research project in British Columbia co-led by PAN and the AHA Centre at the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN). Making It Work explores community services that approach care through an Indigenous worldview of health and wellbeing and also that link case management and community development programs. This study is led by a strong team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people with lived experience(s), community service providers, and community-based researchers spread out across what is commonly referred to as British Columbia.
Indigenous communities and cultural safety are part of our COVID-19 resources.
Please consider this page a work in progress. Input from member groups and allies is welcome. Last updated February 2022.