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Sunshine Welcomes Northwest Leadership

Apr 26, 2019

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Northwest Leadership, FNHA staff, partners and presenters all together after 2 days of fruitful discussions at the Northwest Health Services Gathering, April 2-3 in Prince Rupert.

Tsimshian sun shone brightly for two days as more than 100 people met for the Northwest Health Services Gathering April 2-3. Out in the harbour minnow-like fish attracted whales, sea lions and eagles to feast on them. Inside the North Coast Hall, overlooking the ocean with a wall of windows, delegates shared their thoughts on healthcare needs and priorities.

After daily opening prayers and welcome, a dozen presenters updated leaders on where previous priorities and projects Northwest leadership had identified as crucial to FNHA’s work plans stood. The dialogue is always lively in the Northwest and staff provided mics to all who had questions or comments over the two days. Community Engagement Coordinators and other staff captured those comments, requests and feedback from participants to ensure they are included in any upcoming planning. A core value of the FNHA is to be led by the Nations it serves and these semi-annual gatherings (formerly sub-regional caucuses) provide the space to learn what the Nations’ desires are and to report back on what has been undertaken on their behalf.

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The Gitanmaax DUDES Club shared their successes with the audience.

A highlight of the gathering started with shouts of “Step aside, Dudes coming through!” “Make way for Dudes!” as five members of the Gitanmaax DUDES Club snaked their way to the mic to provide a heartfelt and lively description of how men’s wellness has been impacted by having regular men’s meetings and activities in their community. The club started last fall and attracts around 20 men each week. They have an Elder advisor, Joe Lattie, a facilitator, Mike Johnson, and a very enthusiastic bunch of guys who do a lot of good work: Christmas hampers, fundraising by walking a mile in high heels ( Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign to stop violence against women—“Those shoes hurt! How do you women do it?”), Men on Water, cancer walks and more. Before they even sat down, they were invited by one community to share lunch and more in-depth conversation on what makes their group successful.

Another first was having the Midwives of Haida Gwaii present via teleconference. Both had moms who were expecting babies, so could not risk leaving the island to attend in person. In their presentation, Anne-Marie Cayer and Shannon Greenwood shared the challenges their work demands—being on call 24/7, lack of cellphones for many parents, going off-island for professional development; and their triumphs—a full house for the baby welcoming feast, new moms and families who feel supported, and less travel away for birthing.
As the Northwest Health Services Gathering drew to a close, everyone congregated on the outdoor deck for a group photo. Together, through a shared vision, hard work and frank dialogue, each of us contributes to making a difference in the lives of Indigenous people in the Northwest and this gathering confirmed that once again.

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