What an incredible experience it was spending the weekend of February 10th – 12th with some of the most outstanding medical student leaders from across Canada for the Canadian Federation of Medical Student’s (CFMS) National Day of Action on Indigenous Mental Wellness. Having had the opportunity to participate in the research and Indigenous community consultation process that lead up to this event made it all the more inspiring and rewarding to see it in action.
Sunday, February 11th we spent the day prepping for all of our meetings on parliament hill. We were privileged to have Carol Hopkins, executive director of the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation and Dr. Lisa Richardson, co-lead of Indigenous Health at the University of Toronto come and speak to all of us.
On February 12th we spent the day on Parliament hill advocating for changes to be made by the government with regards to policy on Indigenous Mental Wellness. We brought with us 3 asks that were developed by highlighting common themes that arose from the over 25 consultations that were had across Canada. Consultations with Indigenous community members and health experts with experience working with Indigenous communities produced over 40 pages worth of information.
This included asking the government to adopt the frameworks and strategies put forward by Indigenous communities and peoples of Canada; undertake a review of the National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy in collaboration with Indigenous communities ensuring every Indigenous community receives equitable and sustainable funding; and finally to re-evaluate the programs funded under the Non-Insured Health Benefits program to increase funding for preventative and land based mental wellness programming and expand the list of approved service providers to include Indigenous traditional knowledge keepers.
As a second year medical student and Métis women I am proud to be a member of the CFMS and inspired by the work that was done for the last 10 months in preparation for the Day of Action and the approach that was taken. There is plenty of work that still needs to be done moving forward. I hope this will be the beginning of a journey for all of us as medical students and future physicians and a reminder of the importance of our roles as advocates, collaborators, allies and leaders. Let us continue to build on the connections we made with Indigenous community members, health experts, leaders and academics through this process and remain accountable to our actions in Ottawa. We must not stop as we head back to our respective schools but rather carry through to tomorrow. It is also important that we hold ourselves accountable as medical students and future physicians to do our part in implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, especially those 18-24 that fall directly under the umbrella of health. I look forward to the progress that will be made in the future.