New First Nations Wellness Centre in Williams Lake first of its kind in B.C.

The ceremony and celebration marked the grand opening of the new First Nations Health Center (FNWC) in Williams Lake on Friday (November 4).

The centre, which opened in early October, serves people and their families from 15 Aboriginal communities in the region.

“It’s about intergenerational healing,” said Wayne Christian, a representative of the Secwépemc Nation and one of three outback representatives from the Aboriginal Health Council, who conducted a prayer service.

FNWC is a model for delivering First Nations primary health care services that combines primary health care, social services and Aboriginal health support in a team-based model of care. It will eventually have 16 full-time equivalent clinical staff, including primary care providers, traditional health therapists and allied health practitioners. The center will also provide administrative support, leadership and clinical services. Recruitment will be based on priorities identified during the meeting with broad participation by countries over a three-year period.

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) designed the centre in collaboration with communities from Dakelh Dené Nation, Secwépemc Nation and Tsilhqot’in Nation, beginning with a meeting four years ago.

Tsideldel Aboriginal chief Otis Guichon said the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed the centre’s opening.

Construction crews then transformed a former office building 200 blocks north of First Avenue into a light-filled space with dozens of windows, Aboriginal art and easy access.

cultural safety goals

Lisa Montgomery-Reid, FNHA’s vice president of regional operations, said the center’s goal is cultural safety.

“Our country has identified priorities for GPs (general practitioners) and NPs (nurse practitioners). As partners here, traditional health is a key component of our three countries. It will be the cornerstone of our work,” Montgomery-Reed said. “There’s a lot of history behind this center.”

She added that it is important to open the center through a ceremony because it is about the future and to bless everyone who walks through the door.

Williams Lake Native (WLFN) Elder Virginia Gilbert offered an opening prayer for help for young people struggling with alcohol and drugs.

“We’re losing them so fast, it seems like every other day we’re burying someone. I’m glad that’s happening here,” she said of the new center.

Williams Lake Aboriginal elder Virginia Gilbert leads the opening prayer and song. (Monica Lamb-Joski Photo – Williams Lake Tribune)

Willie Sellars, head of WLFN, welcomed everyone to his country’s heritage territory and said he was delighted to see so many people crammed into the new opening centre – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

“We continue to stand by ourselves,” Silas said. “We continue to put our health first and that’s very evident when we come together. It’s great to see leadership from the city, province. I look at where we are in this journey of reconciliation and this journey of healing. “

After the blessing ceremony, the crowd moved to the Cariboo Recreation Complex Gibraltar Room, as it was muddy outside, which was not conducive to the outdoor gathering as originally planned.

A thanksgiving ceremony was held in the Gibraltar conference room, where health personnel distributed blankets, apples, canned salmon, honey, dried fruit, headlamps and other gifts to everyone present.

During lunch, various people made speeches.

A space where Aboriginal people feel respected

Chiefs from all nations spoke about the importance of health, it’s a good day to be Aboriginal and it’s great to see a change in Aboriginal healthcare.

“The health of my people is my primary concern,” said Joe Alphonse, chairman of the Tsilhqot’in National Government Tribe, noting that taking charge of health is an aspect of self-government.

He said the new centre would be a space where Aboriginal people felt respected.

FNHA chief administrative officer Richard Jock said the centre will be a beacon of hope for other communities that are doing their own development work.

“There will be 15 Aboriginal-led centres,” Jock said.

FNHA CAO Richard Jock, yes, handed out some gifts during the festivities.  (Monica Lamb-Joski Photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

FNHA CAO Richard Jock, yes, handed out some gifts during the festivities. (Monica Lamb-Joski Photo – Williams Lake Tribune)

The Department of Health’s Executive Director of Primary Care Kelly McQuillon attended and spoke on behalf of the Department of Health.

“This place, this region, the people here have played such an important role in exposing the injustices in Canadian history,” she said. “The injustices that still exist today.”

Culture supports healing, and culture is medicine, McQuillon said.

Williams Lake Mayor Surinderpal Rathor was joined by Councillors Angie Delainey, Joan Flaspohler and Michael Moses.

Rattle said he was honored to be invited and told the crowd the city was ready to work with all First Nations communities in the region.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a statement at a news conference that the center marks an important step toward lasting equity and reconciliation in the health care system and in the province.

“Guidance from our Indigenous partners is critical to our delivery of all social services, especially health services. I look forward to seeing the success of this centre and how it will inform future collaborations,” Dix said.

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CaribooChilcotin Yukon Aboriginal Council Health Williams Lake

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