Ontario government expanding program to provide health care workers with Indigenous cultural training

By Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press

Deb Matthews (Free Press file photo)

Deb Matthews (Free Press file photo)

An aboriginal health centre has been backed by the Ontario government to extend and improve training to help doctors, nurses and other health professionals overcome systemic racism in getting care, leaders announced Friday.

The government has committed $250,000 to the Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre to provide what the centre calls indigenous cultural competency training to as many as 25 new health professionals each week, with a target of training 2,000 in total.

While the centre has provided training before with $80,000 in government funding, the new cash infusion makes it possible to do it online with a program used for eight years in British Columbia.

The program has a track record of success, said Gertie Mai Muise, the centre’s associate director.

The centre is targeting health-care providers in hospitals and agencies that provide mental health and addiction services, along with community care access centres, that link people to home and community care.

The new program is so promising even those outside the health profession have expressed interest, including police and businesses.

“This is something very exciting,” Muise said.

London North Centre MPP Deb Matthews, a former health minister and now deputy premier, made the announcement for the Ontario government.

“Our government recognizes how important it is that our health-care professionals understand the unique needs of indigenous peoples. We’re proud to support this fantastic training tool to help deliver high-quality and culturally appropriate health- care services across the province,” Matthews said.

Participants in the training will join an online class one hour a week for eight weeks to learn about colonial history, such as Indian residential schools and Indian hospitals. They’ll also be schooled on historical events and contexts for understanding social disparities and inequities.