The First Nations Health Authority and Emergency Management BC have signed a Declaration of Commitment to Cultural Safety and Humility in Emergency Management Services for First Nations People in BC.
Emergency Management BC (EMBC) is the province's lead coordinating agency for all emergency management activities. The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) is a health and wellness partner to First Nations people in BC through population health and wellness initiatives and the delivery of services transferred from the federal government. The declaration signed by both organizations on May 22 recognizes that emergency management can have a lasting impact on First Nations health and wellness and that embedding cultural safety and humility in these services is "a means to deliver improved coordination and quality of emergency services to First Nations individuals, families, and communities in British Columbia."
Reports on the impact of wildfires in the BC Interior have identified examples of the impact of emergency management on First Nations communities. These include the removal of people to unfamiliar surroundings and the separation of family and friends, which in some cases triggered memories of residential school trauma. The fires disrupted traditional practices of hunting and food gathering and some people experienced language and literacy barriers as they attempted to access services.
The Declaration of Commitment to Cultural Safety and Humility in Emergency Management Services outlines a plan to embed cultural safety and humility in the training, orientation, policies and practices of EMBC, including the development of strategies and work plans to track, report, and evaluate progress.
Cultural humility is a life-long process of self-reflection to understand personal and systemic biases and to develop and maintain mutually respectful relationships with clients. Cultural safety is an outcome based on respectful engagement that recognizes and strives to address power imbalances inherent in the healthcare system.
EMBC is the latest organization to sign a declaration on cultural safety and humility with the FNHA. In July 2015 the BC Deputy Minister of Health and the CEOs from each of BC's six health authorities led the movement, followed in 2017 by all of the regulators that govern health professionals working in BC. Providence Health Care – the Catholic health organization – and the BC Coroner's Service also signed in 2017. In 2018, the new BC Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions made its commitment. This year, three federal agencies - Indigenous Services Canada, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada – signed declarations, as did Pacific Blue Cross when that organization signed a five-year services agreement to administer a suite of health benefits on behalf of the FNHA.
"These declarations give us a common vision, language and framework that guides health system transformation, addresses systemic racism, and promotes culturally safe services," said the FNHA's CEO Joe Gallagher.