Cultural Safety Education

I am an uninvited white settler on the stolen and unceded land of the Syilx Okanagan nation.

The Indigenous people of this country have endured terrible atrocities by us settlers and Canada, the country I chose to immigrate to, is still harbouring deeply entrenched systemic racism and anti-indigenous sentiment. I am committed to learning more about this and doing my part to counter this racism and teach others to be aware of racist patterns and actions. The following is part of this education and one of my first steps to making a difference.

I found this fascinating TEDx SFU talk. I invite you to spend 17 minutes watching his enlightening presentation. I will pull out a few of the most moving statements below the video.

Cultural Safety Education as the Blueprint for Reconciliation by Len Pierre

The TED talk starts out with a very impactful comment from one of Len’s classes that rings true for my own immigrant experience. Before I came to this country I didn’t know anything about Indigenous people and the genocidal history of Canada. Even the material preparing me for my citizenship test did not elaborate much on this history and the ongoing generational trauma associated with it.

What is cultural safety?

Indigenous Cutural Safety is an outcome based on respectful engagement that recognizes and strives to address power imbalances inherent in the healthcare system. It results in an environment free of racism and discrimination where people feel safe when receiving healthcare.

~ First Nations Health Authority

Racism is not only confined to the healthcare system. All systems in Canada include systemic racism and it is our duty to change this. Cultural safety education training needs to be part of what we teach and how we teach.

Reconciliation

Cultural safety education training also needs to be a cornerstone of anything that has to do with reconciliation.

Reconciliation is about strengthening the relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians

~Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.

Working on this relationship starts with awareness just like in all other personal relationships. Education for this awareness needs to be an important factor in the process of reconciliation.

The following quote was a pivotal moment for me watching the presentation. The question is why do we have an overwhelming overrepresentation of anti-indigenous sentiment in our country?

While Indigenous children were being mistreated in residential schools by being told they were heathen, savages, pagans, and inferior people, the same message was being delivered in the public schools of this country.

~Justice Murray Sinclair

This has had a major impact on the belief system of every Canadian citizen. For over 100 years we have been spoonfeeding our citizens the false information that Indigenous people are naturally inferior, unworthy people. We socialized Canadian citizens to be anti-indigenous.

Again, I see a parallel in my own history. Germans were socialized for generations to think that Jews, Gays, Sinti and Roma, and other people were inferior “races” that were disposable. As we all know this led to mass genocide and many wonder how this could have happened.

The story gets better

Now that I recognize this, what can we do. The thing to do is embark on a learning journey.

Len’s formula consists of three main areas:

  1. Awareness of history – Learning about the history of the residential schools, and other anti-Indigenous events like the 60’s scoop, potlach ban …
  2. Examination of power imbalances – Talking and learning about systemic racism
  3. Antiracism strategies – What can we do about it

In closing, Len Pierre invites us to go on a learning journey.

For years now I, and many others, have begun meetings and courses with a land acknowledgement. With time these acknowledgements become formulaic and lost the impact they had when we first started using them. I have been called out on this and didn’t know where to start going beyond these statements. Today, watching this TEDx talk I know that the next step for me is to embark on a serious learning journey.

I want to learn more about Indigenous culture and language. I want to know more about our history and the hurt we have caused and the injustices we, as white settlers, are still profiting from. Most importantly I want to learn more about Indigenous education and how I can be more open to ways of teaching that are more in tune with Indigenous culture. I also want to learn more about the equivalent of Indigenous trades and how these trades were passed on. I know the ins and outs of European trades tradition but almost nothing about the local traditions from before Europeans started dominating what is Canada today.

I have much to learn and today I am committing to start this learning journey.

I will tell you about it in my next blog post and more posts in the future.

Other posts in this series:

%d bloggers like this: