Accountability and Rights


Our community-centered work advocates for a rights-based approach when identifying what are commonly referred to as “stakeholders”. This is because Indigenous Peoples — and the lands, waters, plants, animals, etc. they relate to — have intrinsic rights, not “stakes”. As such, it’s imperative to respect the inherent sovereign rights and nation to nation relationships of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. These rights are both collective and intrinsic and exist regardless of foreign legal systems. International rights mechanisms are crucial, however, for ensuring these rights are respected and upheld.

As this virtual hub serves a variety of people from many different Indigenous nations, international rights mechanisms help create a shared understanding of the minimum standards of Indigenous rights.

Therefore, a key consideration is for all visitors and users to respect the rights described by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—alongside the rights and responsibilities described by Elders at the Centre for Wise Practices— to improve healthcare through access to traditional medicines, cultural safety and trauma-informed care.

Understanding Indigenous Health from a Rights-Based Perspective

“We are rights holders coming in for health care (we’re not a radicalized, marginalized group)”. ~Diane Longboat GCWP-IH Decision Making Council Elder

“Crown land is land held for the use and benefit of Indigenous Nations”. ~UNDRIP, Human Rights Codes, Treaties.

“Crown General responsibilities? It was the Crown that made the treaties, not Canada.” ~Diane Longboat GCWP-IH Decision Making Council Elder

Respecting Indigenous laws and rights by acting on the TRC Calls to Action and the MMIWG2ST Calls for Justice is a core focus for our Centre. The GCWP-IH is also engaged in Indigenous knowledge translation, health equity research, public health policy and advocacy for ensuring that women, men, gender diverse, 2-spirit and trans people have access to safe medical care.

For example:

UNDRIP Article 31:

  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.
  2. In conjunction with indigenous peoples, States shall take effective measures to recognize and protect the exercise of these rights.

View our 4Rs

View the Ceremonial Wise Practices Guide [PDF]


Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action for Healthcare

As of Sept. 1, 2023, according to Indigenous Watchdog, a federally registered non-profit organization dedicated to monitoring and reporting on reconciliation, only 13 of the 94 calls to action have been implemented. There are 46 “in progress”, 20 began and stopped or stalled during development and 15 have not yet begun to be acted upon.

Despite this, Women’s College Hospital is committed to affecting change within own health care system by honouring and implementing the TRC’s specific calls-to-action for health care and education, as well as the MMIWG’s health and wellness calls for justice.

Learn them, know them, share them and champion them!

  • 18. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments to acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools, and to recognize and implement the health care rights of Aboriginal people as identified in international law, constitutional law and under the Treaties.
  • 19. We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal peoples, to establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, to publish annual progress reports and assess long-term trends. Such efforts would focus on indicators such as: infant mortality, maternal health, suicide, mental health, addictions, life expectancy, birth rates, infant and child health issues, chronic diseases, illness and injury incidence and the availability of appropriate health services.
  • 20. In order to address the jurisdictional disputes concerning Aboriginal people who do not reside on reserves, we call upon the federal government to recognize, respect and address the distinct health needs of the Métis, Inuit and off-reserve Aboriginal peoples.
  • 21. We call upon the federal government to provide sustainable funding for existing and new Aboriginal healing centres to address the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harms caused by residential schools and to ensure that the funding of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is a priority.
  • 22. We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.
  • 24. We call upon medical and nursing schools in Canada to require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action for Education

“We are beyond 150 years of Canadian paternalism over Indigenous education. Each year the Calls to Action that address structural discrimination go without implementation, another generation of Indigenous kids and youth suffer at home and in school. It’s alarming that the federal government continues to underfund Indigenous education, and particularly First Nations children and youth — whose lives, as noted in the TRCs section and recommendations on child welfare, which are more broadly underfunded — leading to exponential and compounding harm that will not end without real tangible commitments to structural change and substantial funding.”


  • 6. We call upon the Government of Canada to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
    What is CCC 43? “Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.”
  • 7. We call upon the federal government to develop with Aboriginal groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.
  • 8. We call upon the federal government to eliminate the discrepancy in federal education funding for First Nations children being educated on reserves and those First Nations children being educated off reserves.
  • 9. We call upon the federal government to prepare and publish annual reports comparing funding for the education of First Nations children on and off reserves, as well as educational and income attainments of Aboriginal peoples in Canada compared with non-Aboriginal people.
  • 10. We call on the federal government to draft new Aboriginal education legislation with the full participation and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples. The new legislation would include a commitment to sufficient funding and would incorporate the following principles:
    • Providing sufficient funding to close identified educational achievement gaps within one generation.
    • Improving education attainment levels and success rates.
    • Developing culturally appropriate curricula.
    • Protecting the right to Aboriginal languages, including the teaching of Aboriginal languages as credit courses.
    • Enabling parental and community responsibility, control, and accountability, similar to what parents enjoy in public school systems.
    • Enabling parents to fully participate in the education of their children.
    • Respecting and honouring Treaty relationships.
  • 11. We call upon the federal government to provide adequate funding to end the backlog of First Nations students seeking a post-secondary education.
  • 12. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families.

Education for Reconciliation 

  • 62. We call upon the federal, provincial and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with survivors, Aboriginal peoples and educators, to:
    • Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for kindergarten to gradevtwelve students.
    • Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.
    • Provide the necessary funding to Aboriginal schools to utilize Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods in classrooms.
    • Establish senior-level positions in government at the assistant deputy minister level or higher dedicated to Aboriginal content in education.
  • 63. We call upon the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada to maintain an annual commitment to Aboriginal education issues, including:
    • Developing and implementing kindergarten to grade twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history and the history and legacy of residential schools.
    • Sharing information and best practices on teaching curriculum related to residential schools and Aboriginal history.
    • Building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect.
    • Identifying teacher-training needs relating to the above.
  • 64. We call upon all levels of government that provide public funds to denominational schools to require such schools to provide an education on comparative religious studies, which must include a segment on Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices developed in collaboration with Aboriginal Elders.
  • 65. We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions, educators and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation.
  • 66. We call upon the federal government to establish multi-year funding for community-based youth organizations to deliver programs on reconciliation and to establish a national network to share information and best practices.

What Can We Do? GCWP-IH Adaptations:

Provide adequate funding/opportunities for First Nations students seeking post-secondary education, funding for faculty education and new Indigenous led roles for the integration of Indigenous knowledge, teaching methods, accurate history, human and land rights.

Develop culturally and age-appropriate education programs in collaboration with survivors, Elders, First Nations, Inuit and Metis educators and practitioners.

Partner with community-based youth organizations to deliver programs on reconciliation and share established (fed/territorial/nation-to-nation) best and wise practices, principles, policies and protocols in all areas:

  • e.g., 4 Rs of respect, reciprocity, responsibility & relevance and Indigenous self-determination in research
  • Adhering to OCAP (Ownership, Collaboration, Access and Possession of Data) and other resources for meaningful research engagement and data sovereignty
  • Truth and Reconciliation Report: 94 Calls to Action
  • Learn more about the current status of each CTA and other critical Indigenous issues (CBC Beyond 94 and Indigenous Watchdog app)

Reclaiming Power and Place: MMIWG Calls for Justice

The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) delivers 231 individual “Calls for Justice” directed at governments, institutions, social service providers, industries and all Canadians. This legal document outlines necessary measures to end the genocide and transform systemic and societal ‘values’ that have work to maintain colonial violence. There are 231 steps that need to be taken by governments and Canadians to end the genocide against Indigenous women and girls according to the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. We’re focusing on sharing and actioning Health, Wellness and Education (since we’re situated within a teaching hospital), recognizing that all Calls for Justice are inter-connected.

“It must be understood that these recommendations, which we frame as ‘Calls for Justice,’ are legal imperatives – they are not optional,” the report reads.

Report Summaries for Health and Wellness:

  • 3.1 Ensure the rights to health and wellness of Indigenous Peoples; specifically of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people, are recognized and protected on an equitable basis.
  • 3.2 Provide adequate, stable, equitable and ongoing funding for Indigenous-centred and community-based health and wellness services that are accessible, culturally appropriate and meet the needs of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
  • 3.3 Support First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to call on Elders, Grandmothers and other Knowledge Keepers to establish community-based, trauma-informed programs for survivors of trauma and violence.
  • 3.4 Ensure all Indigenous communities receive resources for the establishment of sustainable, permanent, no-barrier, preventative, accessible, holistic, wraparound services; including mobile trauma and addictions recovery teams, paired with other essential services such as mental health services and sexual exploitation and trafficking services.
  • 3.5 Establish culturally competent and responsive crisis response teams in all communities and regions, to meet the immediate needs of an Indigenous person, family and/or community after a traumatic event, alongside ongoing support.
  • 3.6 Ensure equality in the funding of services for Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people, as well as equality for Indigenous-run health services.
  • 3.7 Provide continual and accessible healing programs and support for all children of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people and their family members. Specifically, we call for the permanent establishment of a fund akin to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and related funding.

Calls for Justice Directed at Industry, Institutions and Service Providers:

  • 7.1 Recognize that Indigenous Peoples are the experts in caring for and healing themselves, and that health and wellness services are most effective when they are designed and delivered by the Indigenous Peoples they are supposed to serve.
  • 7.2 Ensure that health and wellness services for Indigenous Peoples include supports for healing from all forms of unresolved trauma.
  • 7.3 Support Indigenous-led prevention initiatives in the areas of health and community awareness.
  • 7.4 Provide necessary resources to support the revitalization of Indigenous health, wellness and child and Elder care practices.
  • 7.5 Provide resources for specialized intervention, healing and treatment programs, services and initiatives offered in Indigenous languages.
  • 7.6 Ensure all persons involved in the provision of health services to Indigenous Peoples receive ongoing training, education and awareness in areas including the history of colonialism, anti-bias and anti-racism, local language and culture, local health and healing practices.
  • 7.7 Encourage, support and equitably fund Indigenous people to train and work in the area of health and wellness.
  • 7.8 Create opportunities and provide socio-economic incentives to encourage Indigenous people to work within the health and wellness field and within their communities.
  • 7.9 Develop and implement awareness and education programs for Indigenous children and youth on the issue of grooming for exploitation and sexual exploitation.