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Totem pole unveiling for Indigenous healing space at BC Women’s Hospital

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Vancouver – BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre hosted a totem pole unveiling ceremony today in dedication to its new Indigenous Outdoor Sacred Healing Space. The totem pole characterizes a Woman Warrior adorned with a double-headed serpent that symbolizes protection to represent the Indigenous women and their families who receive care at BC Women’s. 

The new sacred space signifies the ongoing work of Indigenous cultural safety at BC Women’s Hospital, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA). 

“Cultural safety is paramount in providing patient-centered care,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “By providing care that recognizes and respects the needs and the journey of the patient, we’re allowing for a healing space that emphasizes recovery and health.”

Developed in partnership with BC Women’s Foundation and the Central City Foundation, the area provides women and their families with a place to gather and carry out healing ceremonies of their own traditions and values.

"We’re thrilled to provide a dedicated space for our patients, not only for Indigenous people but for all our patients, regardless of cultural background, who want a safe space where they can heal and feel accepted carrying out their own cultural and traditional practices," said Jan Christilaw, vice president, Provincial Women’s and Newborn Health, PHSA and BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre. 

The ceremony included blessings from a representative of the Musqueum Nation, whose land the hospital is situated on, and Chief Robert Joseph of the Gwawaenuk First Nation, along with Indigenous song and dance performances. 

“In keeping with our commitment to Reconciliation, we are very excited to be a part of this initiative to provide a safe space for Indigenous cultural ceremony and healing at BC Women’s Hospital,” said Jennifer Johnstone, president and CEO of Central City Foundation. “We commend the work that BC Women’s and PHSA are leading that is strengthening cultural safety for women and their families, improving access to health care and, ultimately, creating better health outcomes."

BC Women’s Indigenous Health program aims to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people and close the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous British Columbians. 

“We are so thrilled to be part of an initiative that is breaking down cultural barriers to health for Indigenous women in our province,” said Genesa Greening, president and CEO of BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre Foundation. “The Sacred Space is in direct alignment with the broader movement of health promotion in line with the era of reconciliation in Canada, and BC Women’s Hospital Foundation is very proud to support this impactful work.”

A key component of improving that health gap is improving cultural safety for Indigenous people accessing health services at BC Women’s, where people are treated with dignity and respect to ensure they feel accepted and safe from discrimination in health care environments.

Learn more:
  • BC Women's Indigenous Health services and initiatives 
  • PHSA agencies' collective approach to Indigenous Health including training for health care professionals
BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is the province’s only facility dedicated to the health of women, newborns and families. It is one of the country’s busiest maternity centres, delivering more than 7,000 babies annually, and serves as the provincial resource for high-risk maternity care, as well as the most highly-specialized centre for the largest neonatal intensive care unit in BC. More than 50,000 women are seen annually through its specialized women and family programs, which include world-class services in sexual assault care, medical genetics, HIV care, reproductive and sexual health, maternal substance dependency, osteoporosis and complex chronic diseases. For more information, visit​ or follow us on Twitter  @BCWomensHosp

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit​ or follow us on Twitter @PHSAofBC 

Aboriginal; BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre
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