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The University of Northern British Columbia is receiving new funding to help doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers practice decolonized medicine and better serve Indigenous patients and communities. 

The $1 million contribution from Indigenous Services Canada will fund the Hearts-based Education and Anticolonial Learning (HEAL) health care project, a joint initiative between two institutes at UNBC: the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health and the Health Arts Research Centre. 

“The Hearts-based Education and Anticolonial Learning project will train health care professionals to recognize and end racism and discrimination in health systems,” Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu said.

“This critical work will hopefully inspire other organizations across the country and spur faster changes that result in compassionate and competent care for Indigenous Peoples in all health care systems across Canada.”

The two-year project is designed to help healthcare students and professionals address anti-Indigenous racism, promote cultural safety, and recognize Indigenous knowledge and anti-colonial approaches to healthcare.

It is a step towards the end goal of decolonizing Canada’s healthcare system, according to a release from UNBC, that the university is excited to participate in.

The need to recognize bias and provide culturally aware services is not a solely scientific discipline—and neither is healthcare, according to Dr. Sarah de Leeuw. Health has always required science integrated with subjects traditionally relegated to the realm of humanities. This program is a major demonstration of that vital combination.

“We need to remember that transformational change, including much-needed anti-colonial change in health care, requires shifts in both feelings and thoughts.” Dr. de Leeuw said. “It’s about head and heart work. We’re excited to put arts and humanities to work in the service of cultural humility and anti-oppression.”

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Grace Giesbrecht

Grace Giesbrecht is a news reporter for EnergeticCity.ca who recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a bachelor of arts in Media + Communications. She was born and raised just outside of Fort St. John. She began reporting for her university’s student newspaper and interned with Ottawa Life Magazine where she developed a passion for asking questions, telling stories, and the written word. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, snowboarding, or reading novels.