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Frequently asked questions about MGH’s Indigenous health services
This page contains answers to frequently asked questions about Michael Garron Hospital’s (MGH) Indigenous health services.
- What was The Aboriginal Healing Program at MGH?
The Aboriginal Healing Program was established in 2006 as a part of MGH’s Withdrawal Management Services. The program supported First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, as well as any individuals who may benefit from traditional healing and were interested in making a lasting change through spiritual growth. The program had a dedicated offsite space at 2 College St.
The Aboriginal Healing Program was designed to take a culturally sensitive approach to care, blending Aboriginal teachings with mainstream approaches to healing. Clients often dealt with unresolved issues and/or the intergenerational impact resulting from residential schools.
- Why did The Aboriginal Healing Program at MGH close?
In April 2022, MGH announced the closure of The Aboriginal Healing Program, including the program’s offsite space on 2 College St. The closure took effect as of May 1, 2022.
There were two main reasons for the program closure:
- The individual responsible for the program no longer works for the organization
- Updated infection control requirements for offering sacred ceremonies at 2 College St.
The individual responsible for the program no longer works for the organization
At the time MGH announced the closure of The Aboriginal Healing Program, the hospital was aware of concerns from community members regarding the individual’s Indigenous identity. We took these concerns seriously and were actively investigating the matter, including engaging the individual to verify their ancestry.
One month before The Aboriginal Healing Program’s closure, the individual announced their intention to retire due to family health reasons. The individual retired and stopped working at the organization in May.
At the time the individual stopped working at MGH, they were working with the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) to update their citizenship file. MGH has not had contact with the individual since they stopped working at the organization and has no confirmation on whether they were successful in this verification process.
Infection control measures for offering sacred ceremonies at 2 College St.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Aboriginal Healing Program, like many other healthcare services, transitioned to virtual care. Before reopening to in-person visits, MGH conducted an extensive infection prevention and control assessment of the space on 2 College St., and determined that it no longer meets today’s COVID-19 standards for infrastructure and safe ventilation for sacred ceremonies.
MGH is deeply committed to working under the guidance and support of the Community Reconciliation Advisory Group, staff, leaders and community, to rebuild MGH’s Indigenous health services and a culture of transformation, decolonization, inclusivity and cultural safety at the hospital.
- When did MGH first hear concerns from community members about the Indigenous identity of the individual who was responsible for leading the hospital’s Indigenous health services?
We received a phone call from a concerned community member in fall 2021. Thereafter, the hospital engaged the individual to provide verification of their ancestry. In early 2022, MGH’s Patient Relations team received a number of email inquiries from concerned community members. At this time, the hospital had already initiated its due process to investigate the matter.
- How did MGH respond to these concerns?
We took the matter very seriously. The hospital immediately pursued a path with the individual who was responsible for leading MGH’s Indigenous health services to investigate the situation and take the necessary steps to verify their ancestry.
During this time, in May 2022, the individual retired and stopped working at MGH. The hospital also announced the closure of The Aboriginal Healing Program, including the program’s offsite space on 2 College St., while seeking a new arrangement and partnership for Indigenous programs and services.
- Was the Indigenous identity of the individual verified when they were hired in their role with The Aboriginal Healing Program or during their time in this role?
In 2012, the individual was hired as Certified Addictions Counsellor for The Aboriginal Healing Program at MGH. In 2018, the individual entered the role of Manager of Aboriginal Education, Programs and Culture at MGH. The job requirements for these positions included qualifications in the field of addictions, education in Indigenous studies and strong relationships with the Indigenous community. MGH confirmed the individual had the appropriate training and clinical designations to provide care in their areas of practice. There was no requirement of Indigenous identity for these roles.
In 2020, the individual entered the role of Director of Aboriginal Healing Programs and Culture at MGH. Being Indigenous was among the requirements of this role. The hospital’s understanding was that the individual met this requirement.
When concerns from community members were raised in fall of 2021 regarding the Indigenous identity of the individual, the individual presented a Métis citizenship card and confirmation from the Barrie South Simcoe Métis Council that they were on the Barrie Métis Council Registry list.
MGH considered this documentation satisfactory at the time to verify an individual’s Indigenous identity. Through engagement with the Community Reconciliation Advisory Group and other Indigenous community members, we have since learned that more rigorous processes and policies are needed to verify proof of Indigenous identity. In addition, these processes and policies should incorporate valuable feedback and participation from Indigenous community members to help ensure they are as meaningful and comprehensive as possible.
- What is MGH doing to address the impacts to community members?
At MGH, we endeavor to live out our values of compassion, integrity, respect, inclusion and courage. This means being accountable for our actions and taking ownership and responsibility, especially when our actions cause harm to others.
In fall 2022, in order to take restorative action and to rebuild trust with the Indigenous community, we embarked on a community-led process of Truth and Reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Toronto and across the traditional territory.
A Community Reconciliation Advisory Group was formed to provide advice to guide the actions of MGH that supports healing and Reconciliation and meets the needs of Indigenous communities. The Advisory Group is comprised of external Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, Elders and health partners who are giving their time, efforts and wisdom to support this work.
In the coming weeks and months, we will work under the guidance of the Advisory Group to establish a community-sharing process to listen and better understand past harms and the impacts on First Nations, Inuit and Métis patients, their families, MGH staff and others who may have been impacted.
We extended an offer to facilitate Indigenous Community Sharing and Healing Circles to those involved with or who received care at The Aboriginal Healing Program. We recognize this is a necessary step towards healing, Truth and Reconciliation.
We will continue to reflect upon and accept responsibility and accountability for past harm, acknowledge and seek truth, and learn from the community. We hope this work will support continued community engagement and the future creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Action Plan by Indigenous people, for Indigenous people.
Read our full Statement of Acknowledgment and MGH’s plan to take restorative action to support Truth and Reconciliation.
- I have concerns about the care I received from the individual who was responsible for leading MGH’s Indigenous services and programming. What should I do?
MGH worked under the guidance of the Community Reconciliation Advisory Group to establish a community-sharing process to listen and better understand the impacts on First Nations, Inuit and Métis patients, their families and all who were negatively impacted by their association and/or participation in The Aboriginal Healing Program. We extended an offer to facilitate Sharing and Healing Circles in spring 2023 to provide an opportunity for those who experienced harm to express their emotions, reflect on their experiences and support their healing journeys.
Alternately, you may contact our Patient Relations team at 416-469-6096 or @email so we can directly address and respond meaningfully to your concerns
- Why is the hospital taking action now?
Since The Aboriginal Healing Program closed, MGH has gained a deeper understanding of its impact and accountability to the community. In fall 2022, in order to take restorative action and to rebuild trust with the Indigenous community, we embarked on a community-led process of Truth and Reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Toronto and across the traditional territory.
- Fall 2022: We sought expert advice from Bob Goulais, Indigenous Consultant, and Diane Longboat, Traditional Healer, on how to establish a community engagement process with Indigenous communities.
- January 2023: Under Bob’s and Diane’s leadership, we formed the Community Reconciliation Advisory Group to guide the actions of MGH.
- May 2023: We are taking responsibility and acknowledging the harm caused to others through a written Statement of Acknowledgement on behalf of the MGH Board of Directors and Executive Team.
- Spring and summer 2023: We extended an offer to facilitate Indigenous Community Sharing and Healing Circles to those involved with or who received care at The Aboriginal Healing Program.
- Is MGH making any changes to its recruitment and hiring processes to ensure proof of Indigenous identity for individuals in applicable roles?
Yes, MGH is implementing more rigorous processes and policies to verify proof of Indigenous identity for applicable roles. This work will be guided by the Community Reconciliation Advisory Group to ensure the processes and policies we implement are meaningful, comprehensive and incorporate valuable feedback and participation from Indigenous community members.
- How is MGH providing care for Indigenous community members moving forward?
We believe MGH can be a place of healing and wellness, and provide a welcoming, supportive and culturally safe environment for First Nations, Métis and Inuit community members in Toronto.
Under the guidance of the Community Reconciliation Advisory Group, we will explore meaningful ways MGH is able to provide high-quality, culturally safe care and supports to Indigenous community members. This may include seeking a new arrangement and partnerships for Indigenous programs and services. We remain committed to our path toward Truth and Reconciliation and will share more details as they become available.
In the meantime, if you are an Indigenous community member seeking care, we encourage you to explore Indigenous Health Services in Toronto.
- Why is MGH no longer referring to the individual who was responsible for leading the hospital’s Indigenous services and programming as an “Elder” or by their name?
We have learned that the term “Elder” is a name given to an individual of First Nations, Métis and Inuit ancestry by Indigenous community members when that individual has earned the deep trust and respect of that community.
MGH was unable to verify the ancestry of the individual who was responsible for leading MGH’s Indigenous services and programming during their employment at the hospital. Therefore, Indigenous community members, including those who are part of the Community Reconciliation Advisory Group, have shared that referring to the individual by “Elder” or their name is harmful and not conducive to healing.
For these reasons, MGH made the decision to omit the individual’s name from all communications related to the hospital’s Indigenous services and programming, as well as the Indigenous Community Sharing and Healing Circles.
In addition, we have removed existing content related to this individual and/or The Aboriginal Healing Program from our website and other communications channels.
- Why did the Bear’s Den All Nations Traditional Medicine Sweat Lodge at MGH close?
The Bear’s Den All Nations Traditional Medicine Sweat Lodge closed on the MGH campus in April 2022. The location of the Sweat Lodge was always temporary; MGH required the land for the next phase of the hospital’s redevelopment project. Construction work in this space is currently underway.