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Cultural Safety

Cultural safety is recognizing, gaining knowledge, and respecting the differences in each individual Island Health serves.  By truly listening and learning together in a way that maintains personal dignity, an authentic relationship of trust, respect, and collaboration can develop to ensure better access to health care services, improved health outcomes, and healthier working relationships.

The right to feel 'culturally safe' is for everyone. The Cultural Safety Program is committed to decreasing health disparities for Aboriginal peoples, by increasing access to health care for Aboriginal peoples.

Resources for the public

To support culturally appropriate care for Aboriginal patients and families, our staff can connect you with an Aboriginal Health Liaison Nurse who can help:

  • Explain health information;
  • Work with hospital staff, patients, family and community service partners to support clear communication and seamless discharge planning; and
  • Identify eligibility and access to non-insured health benefits for out-of-town patients and families.

Contact your local Aboriginal Liaison Nurse.

Resources for employees

Cultural Safety training* is recommended for all Island Health employees, physicians, contractors, students, community support professionals and volunteers. This training is designed to equip participants to create culturally safe care experiences and environments.  Additional information about the Cultural Safety Program* is available on the Intranet.

*Access the Island Health Intranet for employee information and resources. 

Why an Aboriginal focus?

Health care service delivered in a culturally safe manner improves the care experience and health outcomes for Aboriginal peoples. As a group, they do not access health care services at the same rate as non-Aboriginal peoples. 

Aboriginal peoples, as the first peoples of Canada, hold a unique place within our history and within our society. The history of cultural assimilation, residential schools and health care is one of the saddest chapters in Canadian history and has had a devastating impact on the health and well-being of Aboriginal peoples. Health statistics that compare Aboriginal to non-Aboriginal health status reflect unacceptable health disparities of the diverse cultural groups in Canada. 

When Aboriginal peoples feel safe, they are more likely to access health services.  Creating a safe, welcoming environment is a key goal of the program.

Creating a welcoming environment

Join us as we visit WSÁNEĆ First Nations carvers James Jimmy, Charles Elliott, Mark Henry and Doug LaFortune at their studios and find out how the totem poles they created for Saanich Peninsula Hospital help us create a culturally safe care setting by honouring their traditions, their ancestors, the natural world and the staff who care for families at this community hospital.

Full video: Totem Poles celebrate the connection of culture and care at Saanich Peninsula Hospital

For more information on the WSÁNEĆ First Nations carving project, photos from the pole raising celebration and a link to the artists’ statements, read our news release.