Skip to main content

Program aims to create culturally safe health care for Indigenous patients at VGH


Vancouver, BC – Squamish Cultural Advisor and Educator Amanda Nahanee is helping to transform the culture of care within Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and improve health outcomes for Indigenous people. In some ways, she's writing the book on "what not to do."

"When my sister needed emergency care she was peppered with questions about whether she was on drugs," says Amanda. "During my grandmother's era, First Nations were turned away from hospitals and only allowed to seek care at St. Paul's Hospital. It didn't matter where they lived or if they had a medical emergency. People are shocked when they hear these stories, but then comes compassion and a desire to provide better health care for all."

Amanda shares her experiences with staff members at Vancouver General Hospital as part of an Indigenous Cultural Safety (ICS) pilot project.  Over the past year more than 300 staff have completed multiple levels of education, training and learning opportunities that will support a change in their practice to better serve Indigenous patients.

"The opportunity to bring the truth and the history of Indigenous people in Canada to our VCH staff has provided a deeper understanding and insight into how that history can and will impact the health and wellbeing of our Indigenous patients and clients," says Leslie Bonshor, VCH's Executive Director of Aboriginal Health. "Through truth-telling, we are finding that our staff are reacting to this information in a way that compels them to act on their human instinct to help and heal."

VGH is a main hospital for many Indigenous people, including those from the 14 First Nations in the VCH region. However, many still view institutions, such as hospitals, with mistrust and suspicion due to the history of colonization, including the Residential School  system.

Changing the health system to better support Indigenous patients is part of a system-wide transformation that the VCH Aboriginal Health team is leading across health authority services. It is supported by calls to action from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 2015 all BC health authority CEOs signed a Declaration of Commitment advancing cultural humility and cultural safety within their health service organizations. 

To further this work, Vancouver Aboriginal Health is hosting 100 Years of Loss at VGH. The exhibit provides another way for staff, patients and visitors to learn about Indigenous history in Canada.

Using archival images and texts, art and first-person statements, 100 Years of Loss presents the history of the Residential School System in Canada, from the beginnings of colonization through to Confederation.

100 Years of Loss is on display in the Diamond Family Courtyard in the Jim Pattison Pavilion at VGH for the month June to coincide with Indigenous History month and National Indigenous People's Day, June 21st.

About the VCH Aboriginal Health team

The Aboriginal Health team works with staff and physicians across all programs and departments to provide strategic leadership, partner collaboration and community engagement. They support staff and patients to ensure culturally safe care is provided. They offer opportunities for educational workshops and learnings to assist VCH to become a more culturally safe organization for Indigenous people accessing care throughout our region. The team develops and shares resources for staff to learn about Aboriginal experiences in health care and how to become more knowledgeable about Aboriginal culture, traditional health and wellness.

Vancouver Coastal Health

Vancouver Coastal Health is responsible for the delivery of $3.3 billion in community, hospital and long term care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola. VCH also provides specialized care and services for people throughout BC, and is the province's hub of health care education and research.


Jake Adrian

Communications Lead, Aboriginal Health
Vancouver Coastal Health
Office:  604.675.2530 x22235
Cell:    604-220.7440

Carrie Stefanson

Public Affairs Leader
Vancouver Coastal Health
Office: 604.708.5340
Cell:     604.312.1148

SOURCE: Program aims to create culturally safe health care for Indigenous patients at VGH ( )
Page printed:

Copyright © Vancouver Coastal Health. All Rights Reserved.