Aboriginal Health in partnership with the leadership at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) led an Indigenous Cultural Safety Pilot project from May 2018 to December 2019 to begin the hospital's transformation into a care environment where Indigenous people feel acknowledged, respected and safe. Through related work streams – each informed by Indigenous partners – we pursued our goal by:
Creating a welcoming space
Increasing Culturally Competency of VGH Staff
Increasing access to and awareness of Cultural Supports and Resources
Increasing access and awareness of information and resources to VGH staff and patients
The ICS work at VGH aims to ensure Indigenous staff and patients feel safe and welcomed. VGH is the first acute care centre in Canada to have staff complete over seven hours of ICS training and education sessions to help them put their knowledge into practice. This proof of concept is being spread to more programs across acute settings.
Plans are in development to transform the Jim Pattison Pavilion's Diamond Family Courtyard into a healing, gathering space and an expression of the link between the land VGH sits on and the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh. This is an important piece of our larger journey towards reconciliation.
The design plan will:
Portray a sense of community and belonging through design.
Create a calming and welcoming experience for all patients, especially Indigenous and First Nations patients and their families.
Feature First Nations art and House post from each of the three host Nations.
Demonstrate one of the ways in which we are living our values of diversity, inclusion and respect within our organization and in the communities we serve.
We have begun this transformation by completing the first step to raise three house posts from each of the three host nations that VGH sits on with blessing ceremonies to honour the three carvers and the public unveiling in December 2020.
To complete the rest of the redesign of the space an architect and VGH/UBC Foundation have been engaged to support design and fundraising to cover the project costs.
Aboriginal Health has created a documentary in partnership with Base 2 Media called Raising Wellness about the raising of the three traditional house posts at VGH.
It tells the story of the three carvers, and the process and stories of the posts they are carving. Raising Wellness is a story about using Indigenous art, design and story to embed meaning and Indigenous ways into the space at VGH.
House posts (or Kaken in Squamish language) are typically part of the interior structure of longhouses in Coast Salish communities, used to support crossbeams. Most often carved from red or yellow cedar, house posts feature crest figures – many of which represent supernatural beings or ancestors who encountered supernatural beings – from whom hereditary rights and privileges were obtained.
Together these images tell the well-known story of Xwech'taal which is an ancient and powerful piece about overcoming life's great challenges and of healing. The pole depicts overcoming things that challenge us whether it be ailments of the mental, physical, spiritual or emotional dimension. The Xwech'taal story is about a Squamish hero who slayed a serpent and once it was slayed he earned the ability to heal others.
The qeqen (housepost) presents an eagle at the top symbolizing our ancestors and loved ones as guardians watching over patients while providing them comfort and protection through recovery. The female figure poses in honour with her arms slightly extended offering guidance, warmth and strength while greeting passing staff and patients as well as welcoming friends, family and visitors to this facility. The face on the back with the blanket design symbolizes the staff, patients, friends and family that spend time in the hospital. The blanket covering them is for warmth, strength and protection. The base displays many types of medicines used by our ancestors.
This Salish House Post titled, Qut'same, honours the legacy of late Leonard George. The father of Skokaylem, Leonard had a deep passion for Indigenous health and endeavoured to bridge the gap between his people and the health care system. He tirelessly endeavoured “to understand one another so our people can feel safe and treated just the same as every human being." The design shows Qut'same standing in a Salish woven basket, holding a salmon and sharing it as a gift to welcome people to the territory where Vancouver General Hospital is located.