My Own Truth and Reconciliation: Reflections on NDTR
By Glenn Gale
In 2013, I was struck by the news of having Indigenous heritage and set out to understand more about this culture and my personal history.
Growing up in a small rural community in Eastern Canada, First Nations peoples were not recognizable. Historically, groups such as the First Nations peoples and the French were pressured to assimilate. For the most part, surnames were changed to reflect the local prevalence of English, Scottish or Irish decent to gain employment and benefit from trade. Indigenous heritage was never discussed positively; instead, discussion revolved around the stigmas many may be familiar with today.
Documents revealed that a Mi’kmaq village co-existed across the river channel from the English settlers who had landed in the community. These settlers used the Indigenous knowledge to expertly travel upriver for fish, furs and lumber for export to England. Over time the settlers and Mi’kmaq integrated their communities and helped create the foundation for modern Atlantic Canada.
Full of curiosity about my heritage and the desire to know more about First Nations culture, I immersed myself in learning. The exploitation of health and personal data from experiments conducted on children in residential schools deeply resonated with me, not only because of my newfound connection to the community, but also because of my professional background and interest in health data. During this period, I came across two courses that were pivotal to my learnings.
I encourage everyone to complete the OCAP training as it is an insightful tool to support strong information governance for First Nations data sovereignty. The training is an enlightening case study in data governance and the need to protect information in our personal and professional lives, especially for those at the forefront of patient care and empowerment.
The University of Alberta’s 21-hour free online Indigenous Studies program explored the different histories and contemporary perspectives of Indigenous peoples living in Canada. My growth and understanding of Indigenous culture gained from these courses motivated me to continue my learning and co-chair an Indigenous Peoples Networking Group, which fostered a secure, affiliated environment for those identified.
While in my current leadership role at HealthHub I continue to pursue studies in Indigenous business to ensure our organization is sensitive to First Nations and other ethnic cultures. Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) without prejudice is a fundamental tenet in our company culture, and important to me personally. We strive to implement meaningful inclusion practices across the entire organization, with respect to all cultures and peoples as one of our guiding corporate values.
I self-identify as having Indigenous heritage by choice and with a sense of pride. My belief is D&I begins with identity and support for individual choice, and the ability to express that choice. On this National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, I challenge you to do more than wear an orange shirt. I challenge you to take a course, watch a video, read a book, learn about the land you occupy and the culture that was taken away from thousands of Indigenous children. I challenge you to look not just at Indigenous injustices but also explore how inequality exists around you. How can we as those in the healthcare industry challenge these inequalities and provide better access, care and support to all populations?