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Engagement with First Nations, Inuit, Métis and Urban Indigenous Communities: Developing and Sustaining Relationships Within the Cancer System

Building a foundation of trust and respect

Building relationships with First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous leadership, health networks and communities is an essential component of designing and delivering healthcare programming that respects and responds to community needs.

The Indigenous Cancer Care Unit at Cancer Care Ontario has developed Relationship Protocol Agreements in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous leadership. These documents formalize relationships with these partners through mutual respect, trust and understanding. They highlight Cancer Care Ontario’s commitment to establishing:

  • a strong foundation necessary to achieve common goals and objectives towards the delivery of cancer services with direction from First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous peoples across the province
  • accountability for commitments made

Regional Indigenous cancer plans developed

To implement Ontario’s third Aboriginal Cancer Strategy (2015 to 2019), customized regional Indigenous cancer plans have been developed by the Indigenous Cancer Care Unit and Ontario’s Regional Cancer Programs, in collaboration with regional and local First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous communities and organizations. These plans address the unique needs of First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous peoples in each region of Ontario. The plans outline specific deliverables, based on community direction and priorities, and how support can be provided at both the provincial and regional levels. They ensure that First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous peoples have a voice in the delivery of cancer services.

Engagement structures established

Sustainable engagement structures have been established, by First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous community partners, Regional Cancer Programs and Cancer Care Ontario, in every region of Ontario. These engagement structures will make sure that regional Indigenous cancer plans are implemented successfully, and that relationships developed between Ontario’s cancer system and First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous partners are respectfully maintained. These engagement structures may include:

  • a regional Indigenous cancer advisory committee
  • ongoing meetings with established local committees
  • regular touchpoints with individual community health committees

Regular meetings ensure that First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous partners will receive progress reports on the implementation of each regional Indigenous cancer plan. They also give these partners the opportunity to provide ongoing feedback and guidance on all work to address cancer control within their communities.

The 3-pillar approach to engagement

The Indigenous Cancer Care Unit follows a 3-pillar approach to develop Regional Indigenous Cancer Plans and build and sustain relationships with First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous peoples.

Meet with Regional Cancer Programs

Meetings are held to:

  • discuss First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous priorities and targets
  • establish primary contacts
  • develop a working group within each Regional Cancer Program
  • draft a Regional Indigenous Cancer Plan outlining actions to make the cancer system more effective and accessible for First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous peoples in each region

Work with established core First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous health tables

The Indigenous Cancer Care Unit identified core health tables (boards, committees and advisory groups) to provide guidance and feedback on the regional Indigenous cancer plans before they are finalized. This ensures that Indigenous peoples in each region have a voice in the delivery of cancer services, and helps Regional Cancer Programs engage directly, respectfully and sustainably with First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous groups.

Build Regional Cancer Program capacity

The Regional Cancer Programs have dedicated roles to address First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous cancer care issues effectively:

  • Ten Indigenous Navigators provide support for people with cancer and their families along every step of the cancer journey.
  • Ten Regional Indigenous Cancer leads champion the Aboriginal Cancer Strategy’s vision by engaging and collaborating with healthcare providers.
  • Indigenous Project Coordinator positions in 9 Regional Cancer Programs support the work of the Regional Indigenous Cancer Leads and the implementation of Regional Indigenous Cancer Plans.

The Indigenous Cancer Care Unit also employs 3 Partnership Liaison Officers to:

  • provide dedicated provincial support and expertise to the work of the Regional Cancer Programs
  • ensure sustained engagement between Regional Cancer Programs, the Indigenous Cancer Care Unit and First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous core health tables
  • ensure accountability to provincial First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous leadership

Accountability to First Nations, Inuit, Métis and Urban Indigenous leadership

  • Regular meetings with First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous leadership, provincial-level health tables and local partners ensure they are engaged in the design and delivery of cancer services in Ontario, and are able to guide and provide feedback on the implementation of services that affect their communities The Indigenous Cancer Care Unit meets frequently with the following groups:
    • Provincial Territorial Organizations
    • First Nations Tribal Councils
    • Local core First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous Health Tables and communities
    • The Métis Nation of Ontario Healing and Wellness Branch
    • Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres
    • Inuit service providers
    • Aboriginal Health Access Centres
  • The Indigenous Cancer Care Unit has committed to providing annual written reports, as outlined within Relationship Protocol Agreements signed between Cancer Care Ontario and First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous leadership. This ensures that First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous political and health leadership with whom Cancer Care Ontario has a formal relationship receives an annual report detailing work carried out with, and for, the associated communities.
  • First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous protocols and leadership approvals gave Cancer Care Ontario and Ontario’s Regional Cancer Programs the mandate to work with provincial-level health networks and regional core First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous health tables. This ensures that we are well-positioned to respond to communities that request community-specific health plans. As Ontario’s health system evolves, this also will allow our work to expand beyond cancer, if so directed by First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous leadership and communities.