Healthy Living in the North

Looking back at Orange Shirt Day: photo round up

This Monday marked the seventh annual Orange Shirt Day.

Orange Shirt Day is a day to remember, to witness, and to honour the healing journey of residential-school survivors and their families, and to demonstrate a commitment to processes of reconciliation.

NH staff and physicians were out in full-force, wearing their brightest orange shirts to show support for residential school survivors. Check out the photos below to see who participated!

Four women stand in front of an office building, wearing orange shirts.

Northern Health staff, in Prince George, pose for Orange Shirt Day (left to right: Anne Scott, Regional Manager, Corporate and Program Communications, Corporate Communications; Shelby Petersen, Coordinator, Web Services, Indigenous Health; Sanja Knezevic, Communications Advisor, HR, and; Bailee Denicola, Communications Advisor, Primary & Community Care and Clinical Programs.

Staff wear their orange shirts, standing on a stair case in a hospital.

Staff of Xaayda Gwaay Ngaaysdll Naay – Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre wear orange to help mark the seventh annual Orange Shirt Day.
(left to right: Jackie Jones, Cleaner/Laundry Worker/Housekeeper/Cook, Housekeeping/Food Services; Louis Waters, Health Information Clerk, Patient Registration; Laurie Husband, Team Lead, Interprofessional Team 1; Abby Fraser, Cleaner / Laundry Worker, Housekeeping / Laundry + Linen; Patti Jones, Forbes Pharmacy; Gwen Davis, Charge Technologist, Multi-Function Lab; Nadine Jones, Administrative Assistant; Ashley Beauchamp, Medical Lab Aide, Multi-Function Lab; Magdalena Saied, Forbes Pharmacy; Kerry Laidlaw, Site Administrator, Northern Health – NW.)

A woman and child proudly wear their orange shirts.

Prince Rupert Regional Hospital Aboriginal Patient Liason (APL) Mary Wesley and her granddaughter Hannah Lewis pose for Orange Shirt Day.

A woman smiles, wearing her orange shirt.

Victoria Carter, Lead for Engagement and Integration, Indigenous Health, poses in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

 

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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September 30 is Orange Shirt Day

A middle-aged woman wearing an Orange Shirt Day shirt that says "every child matters" holds an orange frame and a sign. The sign also says, "every child matters."

Victoria Carter, Lead Engagement and Integration
Indigenous Health, at the Kitsumkalum Orange Shirt Day in 2016.

You may notice more people than usual wearing orange shirts today!

It’s Orange Shirt Day – a day to remember, to witness, and to honour the healing journey of residential-school survivors and their families, and to demonstrate a commitment to processes of reconciliation.

The day celebrates the resilience of Indigenous Peoples and communities and provides an opportunity for all people in Canada to engage in discussions or provide acknowledgement and support in addressing the brutal legacy of the residential school system.

Orange Shirt Day was born out of Phyllis’ story. In 1973, when Phyllis (Jack) Webstad was six years old, she was sent to the Mission School near Williams Lake.

Phyllis’ story reminds us everyday of the children that were taken from their families and sent to residential schools. Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year.

Residential schools are a dark part of Canadian history and learning about them can be hard for many people. As hard as it may be for some to learn about residential schools and our shared colonial history, it’s critical to acknowledge and recognize these topics in a spirit of reconciliation and for future generations of children.

If you’re interested in learning more about residential schools, here are some helpful resources:

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Language leads the way to an improved health care experience: New Gitxsan phrasebook helps doctors and patients communicate

A person's legs are in the foreground, wearing moccasins, and traditional leggings. More similarly dressed people are blurred in the background.

Photo: Nathan Combs, Wolf & Water Photography & Creative Framing

This article first appeared in Northern Health – Health and Wellness in the North, Summer 2019.

Think back to your last visit to your family doctor – did someone greet you in your own language? If you couldn’t easily talk with the doctor, how would you have felt?

Language doesn’t just help us communicate; it’s how we create cultural history, traditions, and memories.

In 2015, Northern Health signed a commitment to help everyone feel respected and safe when they interact with the health care system. Having good access to health care is important, but so is having a positive experience, and hearing your own language is an important part of this.

A page of the phrasebook teaches readers words for parts of the hand on the top, and has a picture of a woman on the bottom.

A page from the booklet; Nikat’een is one of the Elders who provided input.

Recognizing this, Northern Health’s Northwest East (Smithers and area) Indigenous Health Improvement Committee released the Gitxsan Phrasebook for Health Care Providers in 2017. The project tried to answer the question, “How can Hazelton make health care more accessible for the local Indigenous population?”

The same team has now released a follow up booklet with specific health care phrases in Gitxsan, plus common symptoms and names of body parts.

“More than anything, the resource was created to teach people who don’t speak Gitxsan some basic phrases and help them communicate with native speakers,” says Angie Combs (Wii Sim Ts’aan) who helped organize both projects. Combs is an Aboriginal Patient Liaison at Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton.

She says the process started with a few people interested in learning the language and grew from there.

Creating the two volumes wasn’t easy: Gitxsan is considered an endangered language, with only about 1,000 speakers left.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Combs met with local Elders and Knowledge Holders (many of whom are featured in the booklet) to collect words and phrases, and to gain insights on how health care can be improved from the Indigenous perspective.

A man and three women all display the new phrasebook.

Staff at Wrinch Memorial Hospital are happy to have this new resource. (Left to right: Doug Eftoda, Maintenance Manager; Linda Bonnefoy, Lifeskills Worker; Maureen den Toom, Manager, Patient Care Services; Jessica McFaul, Administrative Assistant)

Combs notes that while many community members can understand English, hearing your doctor say something as simple as “Hindahl wila win?” (“How are you?”) in Gitxsan “really makes you feel good.”

Combs and the Northwest East Indigenous Health Improvement Committee have given the booklet to health care providers at Wrinch Memorial Hospital to honour and support their ongoing commitment to cultural safety for everyone in the community. The booklet is pocket-sized, making it easy for doctors to use when talking to their patients.

To help non-Gitxsan-speakers feel more confident, the booklet spells out words and phrases phonetically alongside their English translations.

As well, Hazelton health care facilities will soon display posters featuring Gitxsan health care phrases. You can also get digital copies of the phrase book through Northern Health’s Indigenous Health website.

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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NH staff member defends PhD thesis on First Nations identity, wins award

Jessie on convocation day, wearing the robes of a Ph.D. and a traditional cedar hat, and holding her degree.

Jessie on convocation day, wearing the robes of a Ph.D. and a traditional cedar hat.

In December 2018, we featured a story on Prince George resident and Northern Health staff member Jessie King presenting her Ph.D. thesis at an international conference in Ontario. Jessie has now successfully defended that thesis, gaining her doctorate in Health Sciences from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

“When my supervisor told me my thesis defense was successful, I just started crying and shaking because it’s been eight years,” says Jessie. “It was such a personal process.”

Jessie was also awarded the Pounamu Taonga Award, which recognizes an Aboriginal student who is graduating from UNBC for their academic achievements, university service, and community involvement.

Jessie, who works in Northern Health’s Indigenous Health department as the Lead, Research and Community Engagement, titled her thesis “Niit nüüyu gwa’a: Decolonizing and Deconstructing First Nations Identity.”

The first part of the title is Sm’algyax (a dialect of the Tsimsham language) for “This is who I am.” She chose this title to acknowledge the intensive 10-year exploration of her identity and to honour her maternal ties to Gitxaala and the Tsimshian Nation.

Some of the questions that her thesis examined include:

  • Does how you disclose your identity change based on different situations and your perceived level of safety?
  • What are the implications of status on your identity?

“I had such a fantastic supervisory committee,” says Jessie, who hopes to publish her dissertation.

Her next adventure will include post-doctoral activities and teaching a course on research methods and design for the First Nations Studies department of UNBC.

“It will be nice to get my foot back in the teaching door,” she says.

For now, she’s enjoying plenty of well-deserved quality time with her family.

Congratulations to Jessie on her many achievements!

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Fun and learning at the first Northern BC Indigenous Youth Summer Science Camp

Campers and an adult circle a simulation dummy, feeling its chest.

Campers visit the simulation lab at the University Hospital of Northern BC.

This summer, 18 Indigenous students from urban and rural Northern BC communities traveled to the University of Northern BC (UNBC) to participate in the first ever Northern BC Indigenous Youth Summer Science Camp.

The purpose of the camp was to introduce Indigenous youth entering grades five to eight to the post-secondary environment, and inspire them to learn about and pursue health- and science-related careers in the North.

Organized by the Health Arts Research Centre (HARC) with help from several sponsors, including Northern Health (NH) and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), the camp was the first of its kind in Northern BC.

The weeklong, sleep-away camp featured a different theme each day, with all of the themes centred on Indigenous and Western science and health.

Students got the unique opportunity to “bunk” overnight in UNBC’s Keyoh Student Residence and enjoy meals at the Agora Dining Hall, making this group of future post-secondary students seasoned pros before they’ve even applied!

The camp began with an opening ceremony, including a traditional welcome to Lheidli T’enneh territory from Elder Darlene McIntosh and drummer Kyle Sam.

Throughout the week, campers learned about a range of topics including:

  • Wildlife and fish
  • Land and water
  • Health and genetics
  • Biology
  • Art

Campers also got to speak with an Environmental Health Officer, prepared traditional foods, learned to identify medicinal plants, and learned about Canada’s Food Guide.

Five children examine bins at Exploration Place's Nature Exchange.

Campers learn about wildlife at the Exploration Place.

Of course, no summer camp is complete without a field trip (or two)! Campers had the chance to learn about astronomy and cosmology at the Exploration Place, where they were able to create beautiful leather pouches, rattles, and cedar roses.

Campers impressed instructors and counsellors with their technological knowledge, and learned about coding and creating websites and apps. Afterwards, the students traveled to the Two Rivers Gallery Maker Lab where they participated in a stop-motion animation workshop – check out the amazing videos that the campers created.

Dr. Jessie King, Hadiksm Gaax, Lead, Research & Community Engagement, Indigenous Health, Northern Health, was on site for most of the week helping facilitate activities and was thrilled to watch how fast campers became friends!

“It was amazing to see the youth building friendships with each other and the camp leaders while experiencing so many fascinating activities. My favourite part of the week was watching the students exchange contact information in the last couple of days so their friendships could go beyond the camp experience! It made me wonder how many would come together at UNBC in five to eight years.”

The week of fun and learning ended with a Grand Finale on Friday, where campers created vision boards for their own futures before attending a Mentorship Fair in the afternoon.

Several campers hold a mixing bowl while another camper tosses the food with tongs.

Campers learn how to prepare traditional foods.

The Mentorship Fair included interactive tables from the Exploration Place, College of New Caledonia, UNBC Aboriginal Recruitment and Support Services, FNHA Environmental Health Team, Outland Youth Employment Program (OYEP) West, and the ECHO Network.

After the fair, campers attended a closing ceremony that included panel talks from inspiring Indigenous guest speakers who shared personal stories, experiences, career paths, and encouragement.

“Reflecting on the experience of going to university, Dr. Sarah de Leeuw and I thought about how frightening and unattainable university can seem for some,” says Dr. King. “For many students, being able to see yourself in a university environment is a powerful experience… if you walk the halls and spend time in the classrooms, it doesn’t take much to begin seeing yourself there one day.”

The success of the first Northern BC Indigenous Youth Summer Science Camp is evident in the relationships made, fun had, and pictures captured. Plans are already in motion to continue the camp into 2020 and beyond!

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Fort Nelson HIV Awareness Week: using language to break down barriers

A table of HIV Awareness materials is pictured.

The table of materials at Fort Nelson’s HIV Awareness Week helps educate attendees.

Language is a powerful thing. It connects to who we are and how we see ourselves. So, when someone takes the time to reach out in your own language — instead of expecting you to understand theirs — it makes a difference.

For the past five years, the community of Fort Nelson has held an HIV Awareness Week. For the most recent one, held the week of April 29, 2019, they decided to mark the occasion by doing something special for the Indigenous members of their community.

Working together with the Fort Nelson Aboriginal Friendship Society, they translated their yearly presentation on HIV into Dené, the most prominent Indigenous language in the area.

“We had one or two Elders who teared up,” said Jennifer Riggs, Regulated Pharmacy Technician and the key organizer for the event. “They were so happy that we took the time — I don’t think it mattered what the conversation was about — but they were so happy that we did it in their language. They really appreciated that we made an effort.”

Fort Nelson, located in Northeastern BC, has a large Indigenous population: roughly 14% of the population identify as Indigenous.

“This event is important in Northern BC, especially in our very isolated towns,” says Jennifer. “Indigenous people have a higher prevalence of HIV … and they aren’t getting that information. We’re trying to bring people up to date.”

This lack of information was the reason Jennifer and her team put in the time and effort to translate the presentation. She wants to ensure that they aren’t left out of the conversation. She hopes to do even more next year by translating the presentation into another Indigenous language.

HIV isn’t something that people usually get excited about, but for Fort Nelson, the event has become something to look forward to. Jennifer estimates that attendance has quadrupled since the initial event five years ago. She hopes that with continued outreach to the Indigenous communities in the area, attendance will continue to grow.

“So many people attend and we’ve come full circle, from where people weren’t talking about sex, to now having condom races at the fire department! It’s becoming normal conversation.”

For Jennifer, this is what it’s all about: to make conversations about topics such as HIV, sex, sexual orientation, and addiction less painful for people to talk about, and to make them part of everyday conversation.

“I want it to be a regular thing. I want continual education and training available all the time. It shouldn’t be a big deal.”

Mark Hendricks

About Mark Hendricks

Mark is the Communications Advisor, Medical Affairs at Northern Health. He was raised in Prince George, and has earned degrees from UNBC (International Business) and Thompson Rivers University (Journalism). As a fan of Fall and Winter, the North suits him and he’s happy to be home in Prince George. When he's not working, Mark enjoys spending time with his wife, reading, playing games of all sorts, hiking, and a good cup (or five) of coffee.

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Aboriginal/Indigenous Health Improvement Committees: what are they and how do they impact health care in the North?

The Local Cultural Guide guide is pictured. The cover features a stunning image of a totem, as well as a wood building with Indigenous art on it.

The Local Cultural Resources Guide, created by the A/IHICs, supports health practitioners’ understanding of Indigenous community cultures, histories, and contexts.

Aboriginal/Indigenous Health Improvement Committees (A/IHICs) are action oriented groups of people who work together to support health and wellness for Indigenous people, families, and communities in Northern BC.

The A/IHICs began in 2005 and there are now eight across the Northern Health (NH) region:

NH is committed to partnering with Indigenous peoples and communities, and to building a health care system that honours diversity and provides culturally safe services.

The A/IHICs are made up of many different types of people, including local representation from Indigenous communities and organizations, the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health, and other sectors.

A/IHICs provide opportunities for new connections and stronger relationships and cultural understandings between diverse communities and sectors working for the health and well-being of Indigenous people and communities.

The members of each A/IHIC bring perspectives and experiences from people who live in their communities and access health care. Through the A/IHICs, Indigenous peoples’ perspectives inform local priorities and solutions!

The work of the A/IHICs is driven by three key questions:

  1. If I was a new practitioner coming to your community, what would you like me to know about you so that I could serve you better?
  2. What is it that you need to know so that you can be the best practitioner that you can be?
  3. What is it that we need to know to be the very best partner that we can be to communities and other organizations?

The A/IHICs operate with the principle that Indigenous health is holistic and seeks balance. At the heart of this view is an understanding that all things – land, water, air, animals, individuals, families, and communities – are connected and in relation to one another. Holistic health is a process that demands a broad and inclusive perspective for addressing health issues.

Over the years, the A/IHICs have undertaken many different projects, including mapping patient journeys across Northern BC. Patient journey and process maps are an opportunity for communities to bring their voice into the health care system and identify opportunities for change in health services, as well as to identity local solutions and concrete actions that can be taken at the local level. The gaps and challenges that were identified can be collaboratively addressed through local strategies and solutions.  If you want more information on this project, you can read the full Mapping Summary Report.

Each A/IHIC has also worked to create local cultural resources that support health practitioners’ understanding of Indigenous community cultures, histories, and contexts. Check out the Local Cultural Resources booklet (produced by NH’s Indigenous Health department) for more details.

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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One year later: the journey to create the UHNBC welcome sign and beyond

A picture of the welcome sign, which reads, "We welcome you to our traditional territory." The Lheidli T'enneh logo is in the bottom right. The image is of faceless-yet-friendly people, painted with bright, vibrant colours.

The Welcome Sign, first unveiled at UHNBC, recognizes and acknowledges that the hospital is on the traditional land of the Lheidli T’enneh, and welcomes people to it.

The winter of 2018 saw the unveiling of a special work of art that acknowledges the traditional territory of Lheidli T’enneh and welcomes Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC).

The vision for a welcome sign/art installation for UHNBC was born in 2015. UHNBC is located on Indian Reservation #1 (IR#1) and on the territory of the Lheidli T’enneh. So, it was decided that the sign should be an acknowledgement and welcoming to the Lheidli T’enneh territory, and that the sign would be in Carrier (the traditional language of the Lheidli T’enneh).

To begin this project, the PG and Area Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) created a sub-committee to lead and guide the project. With guidance from Lheidli T’enneh chief and council, the sub-committee began planning the steps to create an art installation that would be placed prominently in the hospital.

After a call for Indigenous artists was issued, Carla Joseph, a Métis artist, born in Prince George, with Cree roots in Green Lake, Saskatchewan, was selected to create the sign. Carla created the design with Darlene McIntosh and Mary Gouchie, two Lheidli T’enneh Elders.

“Painting the sign was a great opportunity for me,” says Carla. “I wanted to do a piece that represented community and family. [The people on the sign] have no faces to show that it can be anybody. Making time for each other is so very important. Being an artist, I know art can be healing and inspirational.”

The sign is intended to recognize and acknowledge Indigenous peoples in health care facilities and to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh. It’s also an opportunity to offer a learning experience to non-Indigenous peoples entering the hospital.

The welcome sign was officially unveiled on February 23, 2018.

Over a year later, the sign has had a tremendous impact on patients and health care providers alike. Shortly after the unveiling, the PG and Area AHIC voted to purchase additional signs to be distributed in health care facilities across the city.

For patients who access multiple health care facilities in Prince George, the signs acknowledge Lheidli T’enneh territory, provide continuity, and prioritize cultural safety.

Here are some of the locations where you can find a welcome sign, along with community members’ thoughts about the impact they’ve had on each facility:

Positive Living North

“When I go to a location that has one of the welcome signs, I immediately feel more comfortable walking in as a stranger to provide presentations.” – Kyla Turner

The Welcome Sign hangs on a white wall that also features Northern BC locations written in an inter-linking pattern.

The Welcome Sign hangs at the BC Cancer Centre for the North.

BC Cancer Prince George Centre for the North

“The welcome sign helps to set the tone when you walk into the facility and shows that cultural safety is a priority. The sign also provides a sense of continuity of care as BC Cancer Centre is linked to the University Hospital of Northern BC, where the larger presentation of this artwork originates.” – Carolyn Jacob, practice leader, patient and family counselling, and Laura Nordin, Indigenous cancer care counsellor.

Aboriginal Housing Society

“The sign is a symbol of our relationship, acknowledging Lheidli T’enneh traditional territory, and that we are thankful as visitors that we can live in and do our work on Lheidli T’enneh territory.” – Christos Vardacostas

Two women are posing with the Welcome Sign.

Erin Anderlini and Maria Rossi pose with the welcome sign at Prince George Native Friendship Centre.

Prince George Native Friendship Centre

“This sign is very meaningful to us, as it represents our working relationship with Lheidli T’enneh, which, for me, has been fostered by being part of the AHIC.” – Erin Anderini

PG Divisions of Family Practice & Blue Pine Primary Health Care Clinic

“We have had many comments on how beautiful the ‘Welcome’ picture is. When I think of the meaning it brings to our clinic, the theme of beauty comes to mind. We are fortunate to walk on the land of the Lheidli T’enneh. The welcome is a reminder to be mindful and respectful of the people and land of this territory.” – Submitted as a group quote.

Foundry Prince George

“The sign speaks to the importance of holding, in the work that we do, the history of this community and honoring territory. It brings forward agendas that bring healing. There is also a continuity from the bigger sign in the hospital – and people recognize that.” – Toni Carlton

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Northern Health’s VP of Indigenous Health to sit on Expert Panel on Early Learning and Child Care Data and Research

Dr. Margo Greenwood stands between two trees, wearing a scarf with Indigenous art on it.

Dr. Margo Greenwood, Northern Health’s VP of Indigenous Health, has been named one of only 14 panelists on the federal Expert Panel on Early Learning and Child Care Data and Research.

Dr. Margo Greenwood, Northern Health’s VP of Indigenous Health, has been appointed to the federal Expert Panel on Early Learning and Child Care by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

The Expert Panel’s mandate comes directly from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and aims to increase the quality, accessibility, affordability, flexibility, and inclusivity of early learning and child care with consideration for families that need child care the most.

The Expert Panel will be a forum to facilitate in-depth discussions on issues related to early learning and child care information, data, and research to support the honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. The mandate includes lower income families, Indigenous families, lone-parent families, families in underserved communities, those working non-standard hours, and or/children with varying abilities.

The Panel brings together a diverse group of leaders, practitioners, Indigenous representatives, and experts in early learning and child care. The 14 panelists were chosen from over 220 Canadian and international nominees. During the selection process, it was important that the panel be representative of Canada’s diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, Indigenous identities, regions, and official languages, as well as early learning and child care needs.

The Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Métis National Council were invited to propose representatives who would take part in and engage with the Expert Panel and make linkages to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis data and research.

The Expert Panel will operate for 18 months and provide advice on the development of an early learning and child care data and research strategy. The strategy will identify innovative approaches to encourage high-quality early learning and child care, and to offer advice on how to align the objectives of the work on the Expert Panel with other Government priorities.

Margo’s work focuses on the health and well-being of Indigenous children and families. She has worked as a frontline caregiver of early childhood services; designed early childhood curriculum, programs, and evaluations; and taught early childhood education courses at both the college and university levels. Margo has also served on numerous national and provincial federations, committees and assemblies. She’s undertaken work with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations, and the Canadian Reference Group to the World Health Organization Commission on Social Determinants.

Currently, Margo splits her time between her work with the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health, where she is the academic lead, and Northern Health, where she is the VP of Indigenous Health. Her current research interests include:

  • The development of early childhood education programs and services in Canada from the past and present.
  • How health can be affected by social and economic factors with a focus on colonization and children’s rights.
  • How children form their cultural identity and the exploration of Indigenous ways of knowledge and ways of being.
Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Northern Table: An Elder’s impact on community food security

Elder Semiguul sits on a boat, smiling at the camera.

Metlakalta Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson).

Not having enough food to eat affects one in six children living in Canada. This can impact a child’s physical, mental, and social health.

The effects of food insecurity on health

Household food insecurity” means not having access to food because of inadequate income, and it’s connected to negative health and well-being. Those who experience food insecurity are at an increased risk for health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, depression, and suicidal thoughts [1]. However, amidst these challenges, there are people who are making a difference in building community and household food security.

One Elder making a difference

Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson) is from Metlakatla, a First Nations community near Prince Rupert. Metlakatla’s population is about 80 people and it’s only accessible by boat or plane. Semiguul’s parents taught her how to harvest traditional foods (gathering seaweed, digging clams, and picking berries) as well as how to prepare them.

Today, Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she goes harvesting. Back at home, she prepares these foods and teaches others how to prepare them too.

“I teach them to gather and put away enough food to last, so that they don’t have a tough time in the winter months,” says Semiguul.

Semiguul and another person are on a rock shore, looking for food. Semiguul is handing down a bucket.

Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she harvests traditional foods.

Learning from our Elders

Elders have a lot to teach us about how to live off the land and waters, and about values such as generosity and caring for the environment. Reigniting harvesting strategies that have worked for millennia is called Indigenous food sovereignty. It’s an important part of ensuring community members have access to healthy foods that are sustainable and build community self-reliance (community food security).

First Nations traditional foods

First Nations traditional foods are nutritious and some have been used by Elders for generations.

“My mom told me that black currants would reduce a fever,” shares Semiguul. “I have put a spoon of black currant jam in water and it works. The fever goes down. I also gave seaweed daily to someone who had low iron and it helped.”

Respecting traditional territory and teachings

If you want to gather foods from the land, it’s important to speak with Elders or the local First Nation on whose traditional territory you are on, to learn about respectful food gathering practices. For example, Semiguul shares with children, “only take want you need to last from season to season. Break off the ends of the seaweed and leave it there as it is the seed for next year.”

More food security information

Here are some other programs that are building community food security in the region:

If you’d like to learn more about household food insecurity, take a look this three-part blog series on household food insecurity:

  1. What is household food insecurity?
  2. Food costing in BC
  3. A call to action

[1] PROOF food insecurity policy research.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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