In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published its report which included ninety-four calls to action to end systemic racism and improve both the social determinants of health and health outcomes for Indigenous peoples.
“Six of the ninety-four calls from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are tied directly to health care,” says Andrea Edginton, Hallman Director of the School of Pharmacy. “As an institution that prepares the health-care leaders of tomorrow, we have a responsibility to educate our students in providing culturally safe care that does not perpetuate the systemic racism faced by First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples across Canada.”
To address these six calls and ensure we actively combat racism, Waterloo Pharmacy’s team began building partnerships with First Nations, Metis and Inuit health-care providers and community members, and with other settlers doing Indigenization-related work in their fields. In 2019, an Indigenous Working Group was formed, led by Elaine Lillie. The group was tasked with leading the school’s Indigenization activities, and one of their first steps was forming an Indigenous Advisory Council to provide input on initiatives.
Collectively, the team identified four key areas of work: Indigenous student recruitment, Indigenization of the pharmacy curriculum, Indigenous staff and faculty recruitment and faculty and staff training. Numerous initiatives have already been implemented with many more on the horizon.
“Collaborating with Indigenous leaders, communities, practitioners and patients is key in all our efforts,” Lillie says. “Our partners are foundational to the steps we’ve taken so far, and we are so appreciative of their support.”
Sharing lessons learned is a key part of the collaboration process and so the team felt a need for a website to communicate what’s been done so far and where they plan to go next. Yesterday, The School of Pharmacy launched Our Indigenization Journey to provide this information.
The website opens with art by Luke Swinson, a visual artist with Anishinaabe roots from Kitchener, Ontario. It uses the four sacred medicines in Indigenous culture (tobacco, sage, sweetgrass, cedar) and the poppies from the panels on the Waterloo Pharmacy building, reminding us that traditional and western medicines share a reliance on nature for healing.
“We’re very grateful to Luke,” Lillie says. “He has created an image that conveys the themes of healing, sharing and respect all of which are fundamental to our work and to creating safe spaces for students, faculty, staff, partners and, of course, our patients.”
Take a look at our journey so far, and if you’re interested in partnering, please reach out to the School of Pharmacy.