A message from Richard Jock, Chief Executive Officer; and Dr. Shannon McDonald, Chief Medical Officer
Happy New Year 2022 to each and every First Nations person living in BC from all of us at the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA)!
For some, the New Year began with the Winter Solstice, which marks the official start of winter – this year, it was on Dec. 21. The Winter Solstice is traditionally a time to reflect on the past year; a time to listen to the Elders' and each other's stories; a time to rest, recuperate, and renew our strength; a time to connect with our loved ones; and a time to hope, dream, and set goals for the future. (If one of your 2022 goals is “to achieve a healthy lifestyle," we're with you! Check out this page for helpful tips.)
The Winter Solstice also marks the “rebirth of the sun," because after it passes, the days start to get longer and longer until we reach the Summer Solstice – the official start of summer and the longest day of the year. An article in the Arrow, a First Nations newsletter, sums it up well: “First Nations people celebrated the Winter Solstice as they saw the sun strengthening once more. Many months of cold weather still remained before the spring thaw, but they realized that the return of the warm season was inevitable."
With so much uncertainty these days, including concerns about the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, let's take comfort in the fact that “winters" and tough times in life do eventually come to an end – that “this too shall pass" and there is much to look forward to.
We are so thankful for the commitment of First Nations people in BC who have been working together with FNHA teams, as your health and wellness partners, to keep us all as safe as possible through this challenging year and a half. Your commitment to following public health orders regarding COVID-19, getting fully vaccinated, and championing vaccinations in your communities is important. We love receiving your #vaxchamp photos on our social media platforms; keep them coming!
There is pride in getting through this together by being adaptable, being patient, showing lateral kindness to everyone – including those with beliefs or lifestyles that differ from ours – and taking steps to stay healthy and strong.
In 2021, the FNHA continued our work supporting BC First Nations individuals, families, and communities to achieve and enjoy the highest level of health and wellness. Our ongoing delivery of programs and services has had several other areas of focus. In partnership with our communities and health system partners, we are continuing to deal with both the pandemic and the toxic drug crisis, supported communities with climate emergencies such as wildfires and floods, and provided mental health and cultural supports for the trauma resulting from the uncovering of thousands of unmarked graves at residential schools. Throughout these public health emergencies, anti-racism remains a core focus of our work. The FNHA has strongly advocated for and advanced access to culturally safe services, to better meet community needs.
All of these public health emergencies have impacted First Nations individuals, families, and communities. Some have lost family members or loved ones. The FNHA sends our condolences to those closest to them, and mourns the empty seats in the circle.
In 2021, some good things happened too, and there were some notable successes: the circle of life continues, with babies born to FNHA family members and BC First Nations community members alike. In 2021, the FNHA, First Nations communities, and our health system partners worked hard to distribute COVID-19 vaccinations to First Nations in BC. The end of 2021 saw this crucial layer of protection extended to children, and third doses are underway across the province.
In closing, Happy New Year / Winter Solstice. As we face 2022 together, remember: Be Kind. Be Safe.