Published on June 21st, 2017 | from CAMH

National Aboriginal Day

By Dr. Catherine Zahn, President & CEO, CAMH

Today is National Aboriginal Day in Canada, an opportunity to recognize and celebrate First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

As we approach July 1st, I think it’s important to reflect on the ‘Colonialism 150’ and ‘Resistance 150’ movements. They remind us that Canada’s confederation is an act of colonialism. These movements call on us to think about how prejudice and discrimination have shaped – and continue to shape – the lives of Indigenous peoples.

As part of my own reflection I listened to an episode of the CBC podcast White Coat Black Art called “I’m a white settler: Why that matters in health care” which explores cultural safety and how to make health care truly accessible for Indigenous peoples. I’m proud of the progress that CAMH has made to incorporate Aboriginal spirituality and traditional perspectives into the lifeblood of our organization, and I have our Aboriginal Services leadership to thank for their work and dedication to this. But I too am a white settler and I will never have the experience of racism – overt, covert or institutionalized. I can only hear, acknowledge, and apologize for the barriers, struggles and humiliations experienced by people who are non-white.

I know CAMH can do more, but my team and I will need guides – spirit and human. I count on Indigenous people to bring their point of view, their knowledge, skills, opinions, hopes and dreams to bear on our future work. Let’s take time on National Aboriginal Day to consider specifically, the experience of Indigenous patients in mental health care. Let’s consciously name our unfair preconceptions and commit to work that aims to dismantle prejudice and discrimination at CAMH and in our community.

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