Indigenous Health Clinic expands access to traditional medicines and ceremony for First Nations, Inuit and Métis patients

April 21, 2023

Indigenous Health Clinic expands access to traditional medicines and ceremony for First Nations, Inuit and Métis patients

First Nations, Inuit and Métis patients can now receive referrals for traditional healing and wellness support services at Women’s College Hospital

TORONTO, April 20, 2023 – The Centre for Wise Practice in Indigenous Health at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) is expanding access to culturally appropriate healing and wellness services to support First Nations, Inuit and Métis (FNIM) patients through their healthcare journey. Through the integration of the Indigenous Health Clinic in Epic, the hospital’s electronic medical record system, FNIM patients and community members can now be referred to see the Traditional Healer and Knowledge Keeper, just as they would any other practitioner at WCH.

Dr. Lisa Richardson and Kawennanoron Cynthia White

“There are many barriers to healthcare due to historical and ongoing systemic mistreatment faced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis,” says Dr. Lisa Richardson, Strategic Lead in Indigenous Health at WCH. “Creating a health system that recognizes and respects Indigenous knowledges and world views is critical to dismantling these systems of oppression – and integrating access to Indigenous healing and wellness supports is a big part of that.”

As a result of this new integration, FNIM patients can now obtain referrals for healthcare services, including meeting with the Elder-in-Residence and Traditional Healer, Kawennanoron Cynthia White, who provides access to sacred medicines and traditional counselling, grieving support, addresses spiritual concerns, and more. Patients can also access the support of an Indigenous Relations and Peer Support Advocate, who can provide help navigating the health system and accessing services, health coordination services, advocacy, and can even attend appointments.

“This is a truly important step towards reconciliation in healthcare,” says White. “There are some health concerns that may not be completely addressed by the western medical model – providing access to holistic and culturally relevant services that take into account mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing will go a long way in improving health outcomes for First Nations, Inuit and Métis patients and families.”

Kawennanoron Cynthia White and Christine Montague

Additionally, the Centre for Wise Practices has partnered with priority clinics to provide FNIM patients with easy access to smudging kits containing a variety of plant medicines, including sage, sweetgrass, cedar and tobacco. The medicines are kept in areas where they can be seen and requested by FNIM patients waiting for their appointments, and clinical teams are provided with training and guidance on how to handle the medicines and support patients in accessing the kits.

“Having access to sacred medicines is so powerful,” says Christine Monague, Indigenous Peer Support and Relations Advocate. “In my work with Indigenous patients, who are often navigating difficult or stressful situations, I have seen what a difference simply being handed sage or sweetgrass can make. Having access to smudging provides comfort and grounding, and really signals that the hospital is a culturally safe place.”


About the Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health (Women’s College Hospital)

The Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health (CWP-IH) is a multi-pronged program and team of Indigenous clinicians, Knowledge Keepers, and community leaders within Women’s College Hospital, committed to the health and well-being of all First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals, families and communities.

We believe in a health system that acknowledges and respects Indigenous identity, strengths and sovereignty, while providing meaningful, culturally safe care, free of racism and discrimination—where Indigenous worldview(s) are recognized and valued.

About Kawennanoron Cindy White

Kawennanoron Cindy White is Onondaga Snipe Clan from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne, currently living in the Six Nations Grand River Territory. Cynthia has been actively engaged in her personal healing and spiritual training since 1996. She attended the State University of New York at Plattsburgh where she studied nursing and received a Bachelor of Science degree.  

Kawennanoron is a Ceremonial Leader and Traditional Healer. She has travelled among First Nations and across the globe to bring the Sacred Fire. As she works, she creates a sacred space for individuals to meet with spirit for healing and transformation, sharing: “If there is no love, there is no healing.” 

In her role as the Elder-in-Residence, Cindy provides guidance for program development and implementation of practices and protocols specific to Indigenous peoples, personal consultation, and mentorship to learners and staff at WCH. 

About Women’s College Hospital

Women’s College Hospital (WCH) is a leader in health for women, health equity and health system solutions – a hospital designed to keep people out of the hospital. Guided by our strategic plan, we are setting a new pace for radical redesign in our health system, anchored by our bold vision to revolutionize healthcare for a healthier more equitable world.

We are transforming the patient experience, creating new models of virtual care to improve access, pioneering system solutions that drive efficiencies and leading world-class research. As an academic hospital, fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, we are training the healthcare providers of the future.

The WCH Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care (WIHV) is developing innovative approaches and virtual care solutions to improve critical issues such as wait times, variation in quality of care and the optimization of services.

Our world-class Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) is bringing a sex and gender lens into health research, so that the known gaps in diagnoses and clinical treatments for women can be fixed. Our researchers are uncovering breakthrough discoveries that are transforming knowledge and practice.


Kabir Shergill
Communications Advisor, Strategic Communications
Women’s College Hospital / (416) 918-3441