Volume 8 | No. 6 | Nov / Dec 2020 query_builder 2 minutes

Registrar’s message: putting the College’s commitment into action—making cultural safety and humility a top priority for 2021

Dr. Heidi M. Oetter, Registrar and CEO


Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s recent investigation has shown that BC’s Indigenous patients continue to experience racism and discrimination when seeking care and treatment. The College has made a public commitment to facilitating a swift and meaningful response to the recommendations put forth from Ms. Turpel-Lafond’s investigation and continues to look critically at its own operations and processes to ensure the safety and well-being of Indigenous patients.

The College’s active journey towards truth and reconciliation began in 2017 with the signing of the Declaration of Commitment – Cultural Safety and Humility in the Regulation of Health Professionals

At its most recent retreat in October, the College Board spent two days discussing cultural safety and humility and made a steadfast commitment to include it as a core pillar of its 2021–2023 strategic plan. 

The following will be priorities in the coming year:

  • Develop a practice standard for registrants that explicitly addresses the requirement to provide culturally safe, humble, and responsive care. The new standard will be developed in consultation with Indigenous people and will clearly communicate the College’s zero tolerance for racism and discrimination in medical practice.
  • Critically examine each step in the complaints process to identify existing barriers to Indigenous people and seek opportunities to make it safer, accessible, and more supportive.
  • Invest in resources to ensure that Indigenous people feel safe and supported when participating in the complaints process, including hiring a qualified social worker trained in trauma-informed care to serve as a complaints navigator.
  • Launch a significant rebranding process, which includes replacing the College crest, a distinctively colonial symbol, with a contemporary visual identity that clarifies the College’s role and reflects its current-day values of inclusivity and accessibility. The rebranding process will take between 12 to 18 months.
  • Consistently apply the lens of cultural safety and humility to the College’s governance and decision-making by broadening Indigenous membership on the Board and its committees.
  • Continue to provide training and education to staff, board and committee members in cultural safety and humility, unconscious bias, and trauma-informed care. This includes requiring certain staff who engage with members of the public to complete the Indigenous Cultural Competency (San'yas) Training Program and facilitating all-staff workshops to hard-wire cultural safety and humility into daily operations and practices.

While improving the complaints process, developing a new practice standard, and applying the lens of cultural safety and humility to the College’s operations and governance all represent important steps along the path towards truth and reconciliation, the structural reform necessary to protect Indigenous patients will be an ongoing journey. The College commits wholeheartedly to working with its partners to ensure that 2021 is a year of action towards dismantling racism in the province’s health-care system. 

There is no doubt that 2020 has been challenging year on many fronts. Please accept my sincere gratitude for your ongoing commitment to care for BC patients during these turbulent times.

As we approach the winter holiday season, which will certainly be different for many of us, I wish all of you rest and renewal, and continued good health and happiness.

Heidi M. Oetter, MD
Registrar and CEO

Comments on this or any other article published in the College Connector can be submitted to the communications and public affairs department at communications@cpsbc.ca