The Centre for Wise Practices In Indigenous Health

Pathways for Systems Transformation
Our Diversity Is Sophisticated & Sacred


Women’s College Hospital is 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, trauma and resilience while providing meaningful, culturally safe care, free of racism and discrimination—where Indigenous worldview(s) are recognized and valued.

The Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health takes an innovative approach to mobilize and implement recommendations specific to healthcare and education from the documents below:

truth and reconciliation commission of Canada cover page
United Nations declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples cover
Reclaiming Power and Place cover
Community PartnershipsInclusive Physical SpaceHealth Promotion
Medical EducationCapacity BuildingAdvocacy and Policy Research
Clinical CareCultural Safety TrainingModern and Traditional Approaches
Virtual CareIndigenous Leadership DevelopmentStrengths Based

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.”

Other Key Guiding Documents Include:

indigenous health primer cover
wise practices for healthcare leaders cover
indigenous health values and principles statement cover

Pillars: Goals

pillar infographic

The Centre is working to close health gaps experienced by Indigenous peoples. The development of wholistic educational opportunities for learners and staff are inclusive of Indigenous ways of knowing. Core principles of all of our educational programs include:

  • Community−informed education, research, and clinical care that prioritizes Indigenous perspectives of well-being and healing (spiritual, emotional, mental, physical).
  • Indigenous−led relationship development that reflect the sophistication and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.
  • Advancement of Wise Practices and other Indigenous knowledge translation: anti-racism/bias, cultural safety, and trauma-informed training opportunities.
  • Facilitation of traditional First Nations, Inuit, and Métis healing practices that respect the diverse needs and sophistication of all Indigenous peoples.

Indigenous Cultural Safety Training, Community Engagement


Programming and initiatives that strive to create institutional change across four strategic areas:

  1. Culturally Inclusive Policy & System Transformations
    • Creation of processes and policies related to access to ceremonial practices in the health care setting, the role of Elders and knowledge keepers, and protocols for community engagement.
  2. Anti-Racism & Cultural Safety Training
    • Education sessions throughout hospital departments delivered by an Elder-in-Residence and Indigenous staff. These activities include Blanket Teaching Sessions, Open Houses, an Orange Shirt Day Program and National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration.
    • Educational materials for patients and staff have been curated for the hospital and are housed in the library. They include online resources and an online streaming service for Indigenous-specific content.
    • Partnership with the Faculty of Medicine to house the Office of Indigenous Medical Education at Women’s College Hospital.
    • Trauma and violence-informed care education sessions delivered in specific departments.
    • Educational placements (research and clinical) for Indigenous students across the learning spectrum from high school to health professions’ programs like medicine and social work.
  3. Governance & Leadership Transformation
    • Creation of a Decision-Making Council of Elders to oversee all activities related to Indigenous health.
    • Support and guidance regarding the recruitment and hiring of Indigenous staff within the organization.
    • Hiring of an Elder, Indigenous Health Transformation Lead, and Indigenous Health Coordinator.
    • Environmental scan and literature review of current processes, resources, and frameworks for institutional change related to Indigenous inclusion. These activities were led by an Indigenous PhD student and an Indigenous undergraduate student.
  4. Indigenous Client Care & Outcomes
    • Conducting sharing circles and engagement activities to guide the development of future programs in Indigenous health.
    • Creating formal and informal partnerships with numerous Indigenous organizations related to education, community-building, and clinical care.
    • Collaborating with The Indigenous Cancer Program of Cancer Care Ontario on an Indigenous Cancer Screening Program for cervical and breast cancer.

A series of artworks, all created by Indigenous women and with a thematic focus on healing, were selected and curated by Sara Roque and Elwood Jimmy and incorporated into the hospital space. Through the installation of these works, Women’s College Hospital creates a welcoming environment for Indigenous patients, their families, staff and students. The importance of Indigenous expression is emphasized through this variety of artistic works.

The hospital’s resource library has acquired a collection of texts and literature by Indigenous healers, traditional practitioners, scientists, cultural warriors, oral historians, and ethnobotanists that would otherwise be excluded from non-Indigenous healthcare institutions. By creating access to this wealth of traditional knowledge, we are supporting the shared contributions, perspectives, and healing practices that are central to Indigenous healing. Catalogued using the Brian Deer Classification Scheme (Land-Based | Indigenous) with WCH librarian Mary Anne Howse and 2019 summer student Jenna Mlynaryk in consultation with CWP members, the resources are indexed into five categories:

  1. Medicine & Traditional Healing Work
  2. Resistance & Resurgence
  3. Colonial & Confederate History
  4. Art, Film & Fiction
  5. Land-Based Governance & Philosophies

headshot of Dr. Lisa Richardson


Staff Physician in General Internal Medicine, University Health Network
Associate Professor & Vice-Chair, Culture & Inclusion, Department of Medicine
Strategic Lead, Office of Indigenous Medical Education (Faculty of Medicine), University of Toronto
Education Researcher, The Wilson Centre

Dr. Richardson is a mixed Anishinaabekwe physician and a clinician-educator in the University of Toronto’s Division of General Internal Medicine. Supported by the Indigenous Medical Education Investigator Award, she is a Centre Researcher at the Wilson Centre with a scholarly focus on integrating critical, Indigenous, and other perspectives from the social sciences and humanities into medical education. She is the Strategic Advisor in Indigenous Health for the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine and for Women’s College Hospital. She is an Associate Professor and the Vice-Chair, Culture, and Inclusion, in the Department of Medicine. Dr. Richardson chairs several provincial and national committees to advance medical education and is an active member of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada. Her work as an advocate and educator has been recognized through numerous local, national, and international awards.

“I would love for Indigenous peoples across the GTA, and Indigenous women, in particular, to know if they have a concern related to their health they can go to Women’s College Hospital, and they will be treated with respect and receive the highest level of care that also considers their specific needs as Indigenous people.”

~ We Are Women’s Report 2018, Creating a Place of Healing

headshot of Selena Mills


Selena (Cree, French Canadian-Settler) is a direct descendant of the Woodland Cree peoples of Lac Laronge, Treaty 6. She is an interdisciplinary creative, who specializes in a number of digital media, healthcare, and community-based fields. She provides leadership, strategic communications and harnesses Indigenous governance building perspectives crucial to establishing institutional Indigenous cultural protocols, affecting cultural change, safety, and representation. Through her collaboration on the creation of new policies, protocols, content creation, project management, and brand development, Selena is also deeply connected to interacting with all departments at WCH and the WCH Foundation. Other areas of focus include:

  • Ensuring consultation with Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis traditional practitioners, healers, and knowledge keepers
  • Identifying overlaps or gaps in the strategic areas already being targeted and developed in various multi-pronged equitable healthcare projects for Indigenous communities serviced by WCH
  • Facilitating activities and Indigenous initiatives at the hospital
  • Leading strategic Communications (inter and outer org)
  • Developing outer-org partnerships and community-building engagement
  • Planning and delivering workshops and programs for cultural safety awareness training and diverse educational initiatives/opportunities

headshot of Emily Simmonds


Research Manager, WCH Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care

Emily Simmonds is of mixed ancestry (Métis, Scottish, British) with roots in Northern Saskatchewan, Treaty 6 territory, on her mother’s side and her father’s London, England. As a practitioner, she is invested in promoting anti-colonial research methodologies that foster accountability to community, advance First Nations, Inuit and Métis data sovereignty, and promote access to equitable cultural safe care for Indigenous peoples.


Headshot of Dr. Cynthia Whitehead


Cynthia Whitehead is a Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto; Director and Scientist at the Wilson Centre, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto at University Health Network; and the Vice-President Education, Women’s College Hospital. She has held many education leadership positions in medical education at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Whitehead obtained her PhD from the University of Toronto and MD from McMaster University. Her program of research as a Wilson Centre Scientist focuses on deconstructing ‘truths’ of health professions education to expand our understandings of possibilities for change. Some of Dr. Whitehead’s specific content areas of research interest include globalization of medical education, accreditation, equity diversity and inclusion, outcomes-based education, interprofessional education, and the history of medical education. Dr. Whitehead is involved in teaching, curriculum design, curricular evaluation and educational administration. Internationally, she has provided education consultations and worked collaboratively with educators in multiple countries in Africa, Asia, South America, North America and Europe.


Theresa is currently the Director of Education at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. In this role, she leads a diverse team promoting a Learning Organization that values equity and diversity supporting humanistic education that integrates teaching, clinical practice and research to advance and innovate patient care. She has more than 20 years of Professional Practice and Education experience in ambulatory, acute and community health care settings. Theresa holds both a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Physiotherapy) and a Master of Health Sciences from McMaster University. She has led an interprofessional team on a Cochrane Systematic Review “Exercise for Mechanical Neck Disorders” and has published in the area of Physiotherapy and Evaluation.

We are in the seeding stages of building governance and educational frameworks, and are currently guided by two visiting Elders, Knowledge Keepers and Traditional Practitioners who are recognized in their communities as Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee ceremonial leaders. These vibrant and spirituality activated advisors carry their bundles with confidence and are committed to our collective values:

  • Cultural Reclamation
  • Peacemaking
  • Mentorship
  • Kind Honesty
  • Community Engagement & Accountability
  • Humility
    Dedicated to First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nations
  • Capacity Building

headshot of Kahontakwas Diane Longboat


Kahontakwas Diane Longboat, MEd is a member of the Turtle Clan and Mohawk Nation. She is a ceremonial leader, traditional teacher and healer. She has served as Elder for CAMH since January of 2013 and is currently the Senior Project Manager, Guiding Directions Implementation. At CAMH, Diane built the Ceremony Grounds consisting of medicine gardens, a Sacred Fire for traditional teachings and healing ceremonies, and a Sweat Lodge for the well- being of Indigenous clients. She also wrote the CAMH policies on traditional healing for First Nations, Inuit and Métis clients and patients that placed traditional healing as a standard of care at CAMH and part of treatment planning. Diane is founder of Soul of the Mother, a Healing Lodge since 1994 on the shores of the Grand River at Six Nations Grand River Territory, as well as, the founder of First Nations House (Office of Aboriginal Student Services and Programs) at the University of Toronto in 1986.

Diane is a professional educator with a Master’s degree in education and has taught at universities nationally and internationally on the topic of traditional Indigenous knowledge systems and spirituality as the fuel for innovation. She possesses an in-depth understanding of Indigenous history, loss and trauma, as well as the resiliency factors that are embedded in culture and knowledge systems. She has published extensively and written numerous reports on Indigenous education and law for the Assembly of First Nations and the Chiefs of Ontario.

In 2017 and 2018, Diane was the Indigenous Education Advisor to the Premier of Ontario and to two Ministers of Education. She currently serves on the Dean’s Strategic Advisory Council for the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Diane was Co-Chair of the Indigenous Peoples Program at the 7th Global Summit of the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto in November 2018. Diane is recognized as an Evolutionary Leader by the Source of Synergy Foundation in New York City and is a faculty member for the Leadership Quest of the Earthwise Centre, Netherlands.

headshot of Banakonda Kennedy Kish

Banakonda, Awnjibinayseekwe (Changing Thunderbird Eagle Woman) is Elder-in-Residence at Laurier University’s Lyle S. Hallman Master of Social Work program in the Indigenous Field of Studies. She is a member of the Bear Clan, Third Degree Midewiwin, Ojibway Traditional Medicine Society, 1972-present.

An Indigenous Elder and Knowledge Keeper, she is also an Indigenous cultural advisor, teacher, curriculum developer, trainer and Traditional Practitioner, and has served Indigenous communities for over forty years. She has travelled to other countries, including Peru, Chile, and South Africa as a keynote speaker and workshop leader. She is a co-author of Case Critical: Social Services and Social Justice in Canada (2017, Between the Lines Publishers) and also of a chapter of Social Work Ethics: Progressive, Practical and Relational Approaches (2017, Oxford University Press).

Office of Indigenous Medical Education (University of Toronto)

The Wilson Centre

Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health

Keewaytinook Okimakanak eHealth Telemedicine


Native Canadian Centre of Toronto

Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres

Native Child and Family Services of Toronto

Downie Wenjack Fund

Woodland Cultural Centre

Anishnawbe Health

Well Living House

Musagetes Foundation

Seventh Generation Midwives


Indigenous Cancer Program (Cancer Care Ontario)

Centre Talks — ICS in Institutions

The Centre for Interprofessional Education (University of Toronto)

Office of Inclusion and Diversity | Faculty of Medicine | University of Toronto

Toronto Birthing Centre

The Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health thanks its generous supporters:

The Karen Green Charitable Trust

The Holdbest Foundation

Reclamation of Indigenous Knowledges & Governance
Access To Culturally Safe & Trauma Informed Care