Gathering Place Now Open

Nov 18, 2020
Author: 
Erin Howe

ROSARY SPENCE, SELENA MILLS, DR. CHASE MCMURREN, KATERI GAUTHIER AND DR. LISA RICHARDSONROSARY SPENCE, SELENA MILLS, DR. CHASE MCMURREN, KATERI GAUTHIER AND DR. LISA RICHARDSON A new Gathering Place for health professions learners, faculty and staff to learn about and honour Indigenous perspectives of well-being and healing is now officially open at Women’s College Hospital (WCH). A virtual tour and welcoming ceremony was held on Tuesday, November 17th.

The Gathering Place is a partnership between the Temerty Faculty of Medicine’s Office of Indigenous Health and the Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health (CWP-IH) at WCH.

As part of the celebration, professors Lisa Richardson, Vice-Chair, Culture and Inclusion, for the Department of Medicine and Chase McMurren, Indigenous Medical Education Theme Lead for the MD Program were joined by Temerty Faculty of Medicine Dean Trevor Young and WCH President and CEO Heather McPherson.

“This is not just a physical space. The idea of having smudging, smelling sweetgrass and sage and hearing the drum song that represents the heartbeats of our mothers is an act of decolonizing a space and an institution. It’s also about creating figurative space in these institutions, which have been so unwelcoming,” said Richardson, who is also the Strategic Lead in Indigenous Health for Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Women’s College Hospital. “It is about a place where Indigenous people can come and feel safe and at peace, valued, loved and respected and where Indigeneity is uplifted and celebrated.”

“Let’s consider how we can all create more safety for Indigenous People to come forward and be welcome to share their gifts and Sacred Medicines with one another and with all of us,” said McMurren. “In order to have safety, we all need to have humility and bring as much humble presence as possible, acknowledging that we all have work and healing to do.”

Kawennanoron (Cindy White), Rosary Spence and Kateri Gauthier performed the opening and closing drum and songs as well as the invocation.

The Gathering Place will help improve the experience for Indigenous learners by providing a culturally safe space to come together, socialize and study.

Elders, Knowledge Keepers, educators and community supports will be available to engage ceremonial practices, provide access to traditional medicines and facilitate educational and community-centred activities such as healing, counselling, workshops and symposiums.

The Gathering Place will also host learner and faculty meetings, talking circles and academic activities.

The creation of the Gathering Place one of the actions Temerty Medicine is taking to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action as well as University of Toronto’s TRC Steering Committee, Answering the Call Wecheehetowin.

The official opening was celebrated during University of Toronto’s Indigenous Education week, which runs from November 16 to 20th.