MD Program responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC)

The Undergraduate Medical Education (MD) Program at the University of Toronto (U of T) operates on land which has been a site of human activity for thousands of years. This land is the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, Seneca and most recently the Mississaugas of New Credit. The territory was the subject of the Dish With One Spoon, Wampum Belt Covenant, to peaceably share resources around the Great Lakes. Today Toronto is also home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island.

The MD Program wishes to acknowledge the important work done by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). In order to develop strong relationships that respect and honour this community and territory, we must build on the TRC’s commitments and integrate the calls to action into our program.

As with the majority of Canadian institutions with long histories, U of T’s relationship with the region’s Indigenous peoples has had its dark aspects. As part of moving toward relationships of trust and collaboration with our Indigenous partners, the MD Program is committed to acknowledging negative historical practices so that we, and our students, may learn from these painful lessons.

The summary of the final report of the TRC, released on Tuesday June 2, 2015, has several calls to action which the MD Program is acting upon:

(22) We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients

As an institution that can effect change in the Canadian health care system, we aim to be a role model and to instill this approach in our students throughout their undergraduate medical education.  A collaborative and integrated approach to treatment and healing, as articulated by the TRC, should be the model for our students and the standard within the health care centers where we work.

(23. i.) Increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in the health care field.

To help increase the number of Aboriginal health care professionals, the MD Program developed the Indigenous Student Application Program (ISAP), which promotes and supports Indigenous student entry into the MD Program through a modified and culturally safe admissions’ process. Indigenous student representation in the MD Program has increased since the introduction of the ISAP in 2012. Building upon the strengths of the ISAP, as well as increased support for Indigenous students and expanded Indigenous community partnerships, we are committed to further increasing the number of Indigenous students in the MD Program. Furthermore, given the critical role of mentorship in the training of medical students, we must also recruit and support Indigenous faculty and staff.  Broadly, we are committed to fostering an educational and working environment within the MD Program where Indigenous patients, Elders, community members, staff and faculty feel safe and welcome.

(23.iii) Provide cultural competency training for all health care professionals.

We are committed to providing cultural competency training for all medical students, as part of a broader strategy to incorporate Indigenous teachings about medicine in to the MD Program curriculum.  All patients benefit from culturally competent health care practitioners.  The ability to approach discussions with patients and families in a manner that is respectful, non-judgmental, and culturally safe is explicitly identified as an enabling competency in the MD Program’s new competency framework.

(24) We call upon medical and nursing schools in Canada to require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

With content integrated into core curriculum across all four years of the MD Program, we are committed to providing medical students will the equivalent of one full course-worth of content focused on Indigenous health, including those topics identified by the TRC, as well as dedicated workshops  related to power, equity and anti-oppressive practices in health care.

The TRC noted that there is little understanding, including within the health care system, of how the federal government contributed to ongoing problems faced by Aboriginal communities through residential schools and related polices and laws. The MD Program is committed to teaching that history as part of its content focused on Indigenous health. 

The TRC has brought a mountain of truths to light. The MD Program at U of T accepts the challenge to do what it takes to move forward and develop practitioners with the skills and tools to lead the way up this mountain in a new era of reconciliation.

We understand that we have a long road to travel as we move toward reconciliation; hopefully these may be the first steps toward new a relationship.  


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