Pathways for Systems Transformation History | Health | Healing

Our Diversity is Sophisticated and Sacred.


Our Ethos

Ganawishkadawe – The Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health (GCWP-IH)

Located in Women’s College Hospital, the Centre for Wise Practices is a place for education, advocacy, traditional healing, clinical care and Indigenous scholarship. We are committed to the health and wellbeing of all First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals, families and communities across the territories. The experiences and wisdom of community members, Elders and Knowledge Keepers is the foundation for our advocacy, research and education. Our goal is to support and facilitate transformative change so that Indigenous Peoples experience high quality care that is culturally safe, trauma-informed, free of racism or discrimination, and where Indigenous worldviews are recognized and valued.



Ganawishkadawe—The Heart of the Fire

Grounded in Mother Earth and spirit, our Anishinaabemowin name was gifted to us in ceremony by our Decision-Making Council Elders, who stand with us and by us in all our work. Our Centre is tethered to the heart, fire and governance of Soul of the Mother Lodge. The fire of the Soul of the Mother Lodge is tended and kept lit by Firekeepers to keep love and care burning. The wisdom of our ancestors reminds us that the lodge is a place of medicine and of truth.

Our time at the lodge gives us the tools we need as a team to ensure that our work is grounded in spirit and calls upon us as individuals to engage in spiritual discipline and wellness practices every day. The lodge holds us and shares the ancient ways that connect us to spirit.


Reconciling Relationships and Building Alliances

GCWP-IH’s strategic areas of focus in the areas of health care are education, advocacy and research, system change and relationship-building. This holistic care model includes Emotional, Mental, Physical and Spiritual Health.

GCWP-IH’s programs

Our programming and initiatives strive to create institutional change across four strategic areas:

The Health Care Recommendations that Inform our Centre and the Overall Executive Strategy of Women’s College Hospital come from:

These resources, created and reviewed by Indigenous practitioners and community members, take meaningful steps towards Truth & ReconciliACTION in health care.

By centering Indigenous health and cultural safety education, they prioritize system change, knowledge translation, and health equity.


  1. Community Partnerships
  2. Access to Traditional Healing
  3. Indigenous Patient Advocacy
  4. Culturally Safe Research
  5. Inclusive Physical Space(s)
  6. Capacity Building Framework
  7. Cultural Safety Training
  8. Health Promotion
  9. Policy Transformation
  10. Environmental Health Justice
  11. Modern and Traditional Approach
  12. Strengths-Based Initiatives


Respect, Responsibility, Relevance and Reciprocity

This pedagogy of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge has deep roots stemming far before times of colonization. We have been taught by our Elders at our Centre to integrate these values into our governance models, strategic approaches, point of care, research, education and all levels of collaboration and community work. 

The following is an excerpt from Pulling Together: A Guide for Front-Line Staff, Student Services and Advisors by Ian Cull, Robert L. A. Hancock, Stephanie McKeown, Michelle Pidgeon, and Adrienne Vedan.

“While there is great diversity among Indigenous Peoples, there are also some commonalities in Indigenous worldviews and ways of being. Indigenous worldviews see the whole person (physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual) as interconnected to land and in relationship to others (family, communities, nations). This is called a holistic, or wholistic view, which is an important aspect of supporting Indigenous students. The Canadian Council of Learning produced “State of Aboriginal Learning in Canada: A holistic approach to measuring success”, to support diversity of Indigenous knowledges from First Nations, Métis and Inuit perspectives. Across all three of these perspectives, relationships and connections guide the work of supporting Indigenous students.

The Indigenous holistic framework illustrates Indigenous values, ways of being and the direct relationship and connection between academic programs and students services in supporting Indigenous students. Kirkness and Barnhardt (1991) first provided post-secondary institutions with the 4Rs to supporting Indigenous students: respecting Indigenous knowledge, responsible relationships, reciprocity and relevance. This was further elaborated by Pidgeon with the Indigenous holistic framework, which is just one of many models that have been used to think about the holistic student experience, particularly Indigenous student success (Pidgeon, 2012, 2016a). This framework is not meant to be a model that treats all Indigenous Peoples as the same, but a model to show how the diversity of Indigenous understandings of place, language and cultures relates to the individual, faculty and community; within and outside the institution. An Indigenous learner who is balanced in all realms (physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional) and empowered in terms of who they are as an Indigenous person has their cultural integrity (Tierney & Jun, 2011) not only valued, but honoured as they go through their post-secondary journey.”

Guiding Principles

This strength-based 4Rs Indigenous framework provides guiding principles to ensure post-secondary institutions become accessible, inclusive, safe and successful places for Indigenous students.


  • Includes understanding and practicing community protocols.
  • Honours Indigenous knowledges and ways of being.
  • Considers in a reflective and non-judgmental way what is being seen and heard.


  • Inclusiveness of students, the institution and Indigenous communities; also recognizing one’s own connections to various communities.
  • Continually seeks to develop and sustain relationships with Indigenous communities. It’s important to be seen in the community as a supporter, as well as a representative of the institution.
  • Understands the potential impact of one’s motives and intentions on oneself and the community.
  • Honours the integrity of Indigenous people and Indigenous communities, which must not be undermined or disrespected when working with Indigenous people.


  • Ensures that curricula, services and programs are responsive to the needs identified by Indigenous students and communities.
  • Involves Indigenous communities in the designing of academic curriculum and student services across the institution.
  • Indigenous knowledge is valued and the curriculum includes culturally-safe assessments.
  • Centers meaningful and sustainable community partnership.


  • Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can learn together.
  • Views all individuals involved as both learners and teachers. Staff to student, as well as student to staff knowledge exchange, in addition to; student to student, faculty to staff and staff to faculty.
  • Honours the knowledge and gifts that each person brings to the classroom, workplace and institution.
  • Results in collaboration with Indigenous communities to promote sharing of knowledge in a respectful way.

Through this model, organizations, researchers, educators and providers can begin to see the depth and breadth of relationships necessary for community engagement.


We take an innovative approach to mobilize and implement recommendations specific to health care and education from national reports and guides. Please see the Historical Timeline for more. These are foundational to our work:

Article 31 (2007) United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 1.

“Indigenous Peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.”