The Toronto Indigenous Health Strategy, A Reclamation of Well Being: Visioning a Thriving and Healthy Urban Indigenous Community – Toronto’s First Indigenous Health Strategy (2016 – 2021), laid the foundation for addressing health inequities and improving health outcomes faced by the diverse Indigenous communities in Toronto.

The strategic directions of the Toronto Indigenous Health Strategy are to:

  1. Reduce Health Inequities for Indigenous Peoples
  2. Influence the Social Determinants of Indigenous Health
  3. Harmonize Indigenous and Mainstream Health Programs and Services

In May 2016, the Toronto Indigenous Health Advisory Circle released Toronto’s first Indigenous Health Strategy with recommendations for Toronto Public Health and Ontario Health, Toronto Region (formerly known as the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network).

The strategy envisions thriving and healthy Indigenous communities through the respectful harmonizing of practices, policies and resource allocation. The mission of the Toronto Indigenous Health Strategy is to lead a transformation of the health programs and services in Toronto to actively advance the well-being of Indigenous Peoples.

The following operating principles were developed by the and continue to form the basis of the work of that Toronto Public Health does with Indigenous communities and service providers.

  1. Health plans are developed with Indigenous Peoples as full partners.
  2. Wherever Indigenous Peoples go to access programs and services, they receive culturally appropriate, safe and proficient care, and all barriers to optimal care have been removed.
  3. Care is planned to be responsive to community needs and is appropriate, efficient, effective and high quality at both systems and interpersonal levels.
  4. Dedicated resources and funding for Indigenous health programs and services will support a coordinated and collaborative system.
  5. Work will leverage and build the capacity of Indigenous leadership and Indigenous communities to care for themselves.

The City of Toronto’s Reconciliation Action Plan states that Indigenous health and wellness are integral to the overall well-being of Indigenous Peoples in Toronto.

Toronto Public Health has made the following commitments to continuing to advocate for, promote and implement the Toronto Indigenous Health Strategy and commitments under the Reconciliation Action Plan, as part of our ongoing commitment to strive for truth, justice and reconciliation for Indigenous Peoples:

  1. Continue to implement recommendations in the Toronto Indigenous Health Strategy and strengthen relationships with Indigenous partners.
  2. Develop and implement an Indigenous Cultural Safety Action Plan for Toronto Public Health and share with Indigenous partners through storytelling, tools, and health promotion supports.
  3. Develop an Indigenous-led healing pathway for harm reduction, substance use, recovery, and treatment.
  4. Work with City divisions and other levels of government to promote and advance the social determinants of health.

In 2023, Toronto Public Health launched an Indigenous Cultural Safety Action Plan across all programs, services and policy development activities, aimed at promoting knowledge and understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing.

Cultural safety is an outcome that aims to address power imbalances, promoting an environment free of racism and discrimination where people feel safe while receiving care. Cultural safety requires ongoing education, reflection and improvement, and Toronto Public Health is committed to this transformational journey.

Over 2023 and 2024, Toronto Public Health staff and leaders will participate in Indigenous-led education, training and development initiatives, including experiential learning and relationship building with Indigenous partners. The Indigenous Cultural Safety Action Plan has been developed by self-identified Indigenous staff at Toronto Public Health.

Through building relationships with and listening to external Indigenous partners, Toronto Public Health is working to expand and strengthen our programs and services with and for Indigenous communities. Examples of initiatives that Toronto Public Health is engaged in include promoting equitable access to vaccination for vaccine preventable diseases, developing Indigenous-led responses to issues related to substance use and mental health, and working with Indigenous partners to monitor and identify opportunities to address health disparities in the Indigenous population.

For more information on the importance of ‘Indigenous health in Indigenous hands’ and other recommendations, please review the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (2015).