Paul O’Byrne, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences noted that Sunday is National Indigenous People’s Day.

“National Indigenous Peoples’ Day this Sunday, June 21, is an annual opportunity to celebrate the unique heritage, cultures and achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada. As we acknowledge this important day, we are reminded of both what we have achieved within the Faculty of Health Sciences with respect to advancing Indigenous education in health sciences, and the work we have yet to do.

“These past two years, we have worked together with Indigenous community partners, Faculty leadership, and Indigenous alumni and students to develop an Indigenous Health Education Strategic Plan that will guide us forward in the work we have committed to do.

“Our objective is to respond to the request of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada of medical and nursing schools and, indeed, all health practitioners to teach our learners about our shared history regarding the colonizing experience of Indigenous peoples in this country. Our broader goal is to graduate health practitioners who are prepared to practice in a culturally safe way with First Nations, Inuit and Métis people and to advocate for the health system reform needed to address the health inequity they experience.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a time of pause and reflection for health educators, practitioners and decision makers. We have had to rise up and respond to this public health challenge and, in doing so, we are faced with the reminder that health inequity remains persistent and pervasive for some in our society. During this pandemic response period, we have reached out to our Indigenous community partners. We bear witness to both the public health challenges they face and the resiliency they have demonstrated, and we will continue to stand alongside them and share our knowledge and support as needed.

“The implementation of our strategic plan will be achieved through the development of an Indigenous health Learning Lodge. The Learning Lodge will be a culturally safe space for Indigenous learners, elders, alumni and faculty to collaborate and continue our work here in the Faculty. We look forward to collaborating with all our partners both on and off campus towards realizing our collective vision. This year, on June 21, we pause again to honour Indigenous peoples on this day of solidarity, celebrate our collaborative effort to affect change and renew our commitment to the path ahead.”

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