Knowledge Resources & Publications

Webinar: Cultural safety for Indigenous peoples: A determinant of health

February 2016


A NCCAH webinar, co-hosted with Northern Health, was held on February 17, 2016 on “Cultural safety for Indigenous peoples: A determinant of health.” Dr. Sarah de Leeuw, Associate Professor in the Northern Medical Program, University of Northern British Columbia and a Research Associate for the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, explored how racism has manifested in the way health care services are provided to Indigenous peoples and is thus a barrier to their optimal health. Specifically, the presentation highlighted the ways in which Indigenous people have expressed their realities of experiencing racism, and discussed ways that healthcare professionals might engage with the arts and humanities in order to more deeply reflect on their thoughts about racism and Indigenous peoples. The webinar attracted great interest, with 366 participants in attendance.

Racism and prejudice towards Indigenous peoples is a determinant of Indigenous peoples’ health and well-being (or lack thereof). While cultural competencies and cultural safety courses are taking hold as ‘best practices’ across many jurisdictions, this seminar lecture presents more overtly the idea that racism remains a significant barrier to optimal health care relationship, and thus optimal health, still faced by Indigenous peoples.

The presentation explores topics ranging from the fact that many Indigenous geographies are outcomes of racialized constructions about Indigenous peoples, that now form physical barriers to accessing health, through to ideas that imbedded stereotypes about Indigenous people continue to ‘colour’ ways health care professionals interact with Indigenous peoples, as patients, community members, or families and advocates.

The presentation draws on multi-media ways that Indigenous people have expressed their realities of experiencing racism as a determinant of health and also discusses ways that healthcare professionals might engage with the arts and humanities in order to delve more deeply and reflexively into personal orientations to Indigenous peoples and communities.

Webinar objectives:

  • Understand historic and contemporary ways that Indigenous peoples are constructed as ‘othered’ subjects;
  • Have new lenses through which to understand health-based interactions with Indigenous peoples;
  • Understand means of undertaking self-reflection to further and deepen personal thoughts about racism and Indigenous peoples.

Speaker Bio

Sarah de Leeuw grew up in northern British Columbia, a landscape which early on inspired her interests in cultural geographies, colonialism, and relationships between non-Indigenous and Aboriginal peoples. In partnership with artists, healthcare professionals, and Indigenous scholars and communities, Sarah de Leeuw works at the crossroads of creative arts, humanities, and the medical-health sciences. Her academic scholarship, literary practices, and community activism expand Canada’s understanding about: marginalized rural northern geographies; colonialism as a harmful determinant of Indigenous peoples’ health, and; ways for medical-health sciences to open spaces for imaginative and decolonizing ways of knowing and practicing.

Recommended Readings

de Leeuw, S. (January 2014). Telling Stories About Stories. The Canadian Family Physician Journal, 60(1). 5-7.

Elliot, C. and S. de Leeuw. (April 2009). Our Aboriginal Relations: When Family Doctors and Aboriginal Patients Meet. The Canadian Family Physician, Vol. 55. 443- 444.

Loppie, S. Reading, C. and de Leeuw, S. (2014). Aboriginal Experiences with Racism and its Impacts. Prince George, BC: National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health.

Webinar Resources

Indigenous Cultural Competency Training Options

The Canadian Council on Social Determinants of Health (CCSDH) has identified cultural competency training options to assist organizations and individuals from different sectors to better understand Indigenous histories and cultures. These trainings are appropriate for broad audiences and offer accurate and comprehensive information to support cultural competency.