Our Commitment to Indigenous Anti-Racism, Cultural Safety & Humility

The College’s purpose is to ensure the public receives safe, ethical, and effective occupational therapy services in British Columbia, as mandated by the Health Professions Act of BC. This includes occupational therapy services provided to Indigenous clients, who are disproportionately subjected to stereotyping, racism, discrimination, and prejudice which is unsafe. COTBC is therefore dedicated to Indigenous Anti-Racism, Cultural Safety and Humility (IARCS&H) in the regulation of occupational therapy services in BC, which includes making room for decolonization within its culture, governance and operations.

“To be antiracist involves eliminating racism from our policies and institutions, understanding how the present exists upon colonial and racist foundations, and committing to educate oneself and take action to create conditions of greater inclusion, equality and justice.”

– Turpel-Lafond, 2020, p.7

Cultural Humility is not a skill that is attained in one single point in time. It is not a box that can be checked off and marked ‘complete’. Rather, it comes from a deep personal commitment to ongoing learning, continuous self-reflection and examination of personal biases. It a willingness to listen, learn, and act in the protection of Indigenous human rights. It is a set of evolving skills that allow the health care provider to make room for decolonization and create a culturally safe space, which might look different for each individual client.

“Statistics and research paint a distressing picture of our society, in which too many people are struggling with violence and trauma. These challenges exist against the historical backdrop of Canada’s colonization of Inuit Nunangat, in which federal government policy directed the institutions and systems that have destabilized our society by undermining our ability to be self-reliant. The social and cultural challenges that exist today can similarly be undone in large part through policies that support and empower Inuit institutions, families and communities.”

– Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami]

COTBC along with 10 other health regulatory colleges in BC signed a Joint Statement of Apology and Commitments to Action on July 27, 2021, which states:

“As the leaders of health regulatory colleges in British Columbia that govern more than 21,000 health professionals, we respectfully and humbly apologize to Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit), communities and registrants of our respective Colleges who have experienced and suffered from racism while engaging with our organizations or with the health professionals we regulate.”

– Joint Statement of Apology and Commitments to Action, 2021

In 2017, COTBC joined all other BC health profession regulators in signing the Declaration of Commitment – Cultural Safety and Humility in the Regulation of Health Professionals Serving First Nations and Aboriginal People in British Columbia. COTBC takes this commitment to enhance the health and safety of Indigenous peoples very seriously.

Mindful Decolonization

While there is no agreed upon definition of “decolonization”, in general the term speaks the needs to unravel colonization. Decolonization and reconciliation are deeply related. As stated in the document What Have We Learned: Principles of Truth and Reconciliation by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015), reconciliation “is a process of healing of relationships that requires public truth sharing, apology, and commemoration that acknowledge and redress past harms” (p.3).

Mindfulness of decolonization and reconciliation in healthcare practice enhances public safety by ensuring no one’s race and/or culture stands in the way of safe, unrestrained, and equal access to care and services in BC. Indigenous-specific racism in the health care system can be addressed in part with a commitment by health care professionals, including occupational therapists, to provide culturally safe, individualized health care grounded in cultural humility.

Occupational therapists protect equal access to care for all peoples in BC, to make sure occupational therapy services are safe, ethical, and fairly accessible by all.

All COTBC staff are in the process of completing the San’Yas Indigenous Cultural Safety and Humility training program. The College is proud to organize and offer continued Cultural Safety and Humility training to staff, Board and Committee members. In the summer of 2021, the COTBC Board approved a Land Acknowledgement Policy, ensuring that staff, Board and Committee members understand how to deliver accurate and meaningful land acknowledgements at meetings and events.

COTBC encourages occupational therapists to continually renew their efforts on their learning journey of Cultural Humility in the pursuit of providing culturally safe care. This effort requires a committed and intentional learning journey that spans the length of one’s time in practice. The College is dedicated to supporting registrants on this long and meaningful learning and self-reflection journey.

See Indigenous Anti-Racism, Cultural Safety & Humility Resources for occupational therapists.

Learn more about COTBC IARCS&H Initiatives.