Reconciliation at the heart of the 2020 Communicable Disease Forum


​​With a focus on honouring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the calls to health action, the 2020 FNHA Communicable Disease Forum (CDF) featured powerful content and presentations during the three-day forum. Taking place Feb. 11 – 13 at the Pinnacle Harbourfront Hotel, it was a professional development opportunity for community health nurses, home care nurses and licensed practical nurses working with First Nations Communicable Disease and public health programs in BC’s First Nations communities.

Setting the stage for the forum, April McNaughton, Director, Communicable Disease Population Public Health (CDPPH), said: “You are the hearts and minds, and hands and feet on the ground, working tirelessly to improve health outcomes for all First Nations people. ​We raise our hands to you.”

Nurses traveled to Vancouver from across BC, and Chief Nursing Officer Becky Palmer welcomed all: “It is our hope that by continuing to discuss, explore and learn more about Indigenous ways of knowing, we will be strengthened in our ability to serve.”

Syexwaliya, Elder and Knowledge Keeper, opened the CDF in a good way with a blessing and recognition of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.  “We need to stand and work together. Have one heart and one mind. Be open to Creator and each other.”

2020.03_CDFJustice.JPGThe Honourable Justice Leonard Marchand, Sylix Nation and keynote speaker, followed. Son of a residential school survivor and a public health nurse, Justice Marchand spoke about Canada’s colonial history and assimilation policies and the deplorable realities of the residential school system, and how all of these factors have created significant socio-economic gaps for Indigenous people in Canada.  Before his appointment as a Supreme Court Justice, his work as a lawyer focused on representing residential school survivors, including helping to negotiate the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. 

“Human outcomes come from not just the medical treatment people receive, but the human treatment people receive,” he said.

Later in the day, the cultural performers Butterflies in Spirit sang, danced and drummed to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and the family members they have personally lost. Through their dancing and stories, the women of this group strive to raise awareness of violence against Indigenous women and girls while also showing how dance can be used as a healing practice. Butterflies in Spirit ended their performance by singing the Women’s Warrior Song, with the entire room – about 250 people – joining in.


On the final day of the CDF, Adrienne Lewis, Clinical Manager with the Splatsin Health Department, spoke about nursing reconciliation. “We cannot just nurse with science, we need to move toward heart-centred nursing.” 

2020.03_CDFAdrienne.JPGBy posing the question “how do we nurse?” she opened the floor to meaningful discussion and audience participation as attendees shared stories of times they created heart-centred nursing, including working with love, creating trust and asking permission. Adrienne highlighted that, “it is important to look into what is under the surface of our skills.”

Everyone was also treated to a performance by Carley Julien, Community Health Nurse with the Resource Team, as she played her guitar and sang a song she wrote about a moving experience she had with an Elder.  Titled Ode to An Elder, Carley emotionally recalled that when she played the song for the Elder, he said, “so much trust has been broken but this is the kind of thing that builds trust back up.”


The three-day forum ended with an honouring ceremony and a procession led by Syexwaliya that included drumming and the forming of circle. Attendees joined in with their own drums and each person was honoured as the group reflected on lessons learned during their shared time at the CDF. ​Together, they closed the event by singing of the Coast Salish anthem.


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