The Primary Care Network Indigenous Engagement and Cultural Safety Guidebook

FNHA’s Policy Statement on Cultural Safety and Humility
This policy statement provides the FNHA’s view on creating cultural safety and humility for First Nations in the health care system. It builds a common understanding of cultural safety and humility for FNHA, communicates our views with our health partners and provides recommended actions to embed cultural safety into the health system across multiple levels.


Tlesla II Dr. Evan Adams
Chief Medical O cer, First Nations Health Authority

To provide culturally “safe” care, or care where those we serve feel safe and respected, we need to be humble enough to admit that we don’t know everything about everyone’s life experiences, culture and feelings, and that health care providers don’t know it all.

In other words, we need to listen without judgement, and be open to learning from and connecting with individuals, families and communities for better care. One story I would like to share took place while I was prescribing a rather complicated course of treatment for a patient who happened to be an Indigenous man.

Intending to be helpful, I said, “This is quite complicated, would you like me to write it down for you?” To my surprise, he replied in a hurt voice, “Do you think I’m stupid? All I’ve ever heard is that I’m stupid. I was told that every day in residential school and I don’t want to keep hearing it now.”

He needed cultural knowledge from his health care professional, an awareness of history and the adverse impacts, awareness that he had experienced trauma and could be triggered by any seemingly disrespectful behaviour on the part of his health care professional.

Thankfully, I am aware of the history of residential school – my parents both went – and was able, I think, to defuse his feelings of being put down with some careful words and an explanation of my motive to help him be well. This experience taught me how personal experiences can negativelya ect health care interactions, and that as a health care professional weall need to be careful and responsive with our words.

Cultural humility and cultural safety in the health system requires health professionals to acknowledge they are always on a journey of learning, and being open to listening to what better care means for First Nations and Aboriginal peoples. We all need to acknowledge, “it starts with me”.