Knowledge Resources & Publications

Webinar: Reconciliation and Public Health

January 2018


In 1988 the Institute of Medicine defined public health as “what we as a society do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy.” When we consider the health gaps that First Nations, Métis and Inuit people experience compared to the Settler population of Canada, we can then understand that as a society collectively, we also created the conditions that produced those gaps. In fact, Call to Action #24 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada calls on us to understand the current health status of Indigenous peoples as being rooted in government policy, with policy being one major tool by which societies produce health and health gaps.

The TRC also provides guidance on how Public Health can contribute to closing Indigenous health gaps through both the Principles of Reconciliation and the Calls to Action. The first principle of reconciliation is that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is the framework for reconciliation, and so Public Health needs to understand the key themes of UNDRIP and how they apply to public health work. It is helpful to consider Indigenous health through a determinants of health lens in order to understand how the Calls to Action inform the future work of public health, including deep reflection on Public Health Acts and the ethics of the utilization of legislated functions of public health to respond to socially created inequities in communicable diseases such as tuberculosis.

Webinar objectives

  • Examine underlying historic and contemporary causes of Indigenous health inequities.
  • Increase knowledge and understanding of the role of public health in closing the gaps/eliminating these inequities.
  • Analyze Indigenous rights and the principles of reconciliation within the context of Public Health Acts and Ethics.
  • Reflect on individual and collective actions that can be undertaken to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.

Speaker bio

Dr. Marcia Anderson is Cree- Saulteaux, with roots going to the Norway House Cree Nation and Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. She practices both Internal Medicine and Public Health as a Medical Officer of Health with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. She is the Executive Director of Indigenous Academic Affairs in the Ongomiizwin Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. Current active areas of work include leading the development and implementation of Truth and Reconciliation Response Action Plans, Indigenous youth health, Indigenous maternal and child health, and Indigenous health care quality. She has recently been appointed Chair of the Indigenous Health Network of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada. She is a Past President of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada and Past Chair of the Pacific Region Indigenous Doctors Congress. She was recognized for her contributions to Indigenous peoples’ health with a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in March 2011.

Recommended readings

Government of Canada. (2018). Principles respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples. Ottawa, ON: Author.

National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health. (2017). Reconciliation in First Nations child welfare. Prince George, BC: Author.

Reading, C., & Wien, F. (2009). Heath inequalities and social determinants of Aboriginal Peoples’ health. Prince George, BC: National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to action. Winnipeg, MB: Author.

United Nations. (2008). Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples. New York: Author.

Webinar resources