GIPPEC Symposium on the Access to Palliative and End-of-Life Care for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples

By:  Louise Lee  Posted On:  Dec 1st, 2016

The 2nd annual GIPPEC symposium, held on November 15 and 16 in Toronto, focused on improving access to palliative and end-of-life care for the First Nations, Inuit and Métis (FNIM) communities.

Following a traditional smudging ceremony, the symposium kicked off with the keynote speaker, Dr. Carrie Bourassa, Chair in Northern and Indigenous Health and Senior Scientist at Health Science North Research Institute, examining the historical, geographic, language and cultural barriers leading to poor health outcomes for indigenous peoples across Canada.

Top Left: Panel discussion with Carrie Bourassa, Michael Anderson, Bernice Downey and Holly Prince, moderated by Camilla Zimmermann. Top Right: Working Groups. Bottom Left: Aboriginal Patient Navigator, Joanna Vatour sharing her experience. Bottom Right: A documentary about end-of-life care for First Nations and Métis.

Through a variety of forums, including storytelling, short documentaries, presentations, panel discussions, and working groups, the symposium illuminated opportunities for improving patient care, cultural safety, and for building authentic partnerships with indigenous communities in developing palliative care programs.

Building such partnerships, panellist Dr. Bernice Downey said, involves a commitment to learning and cooperation, respect for indigenous perspectives related to health and wellness, and support for self-determining aspirations of the peoples.

The audience, which included health care providers at UHN and other institutions, representatives from Health Canada, the Ontario Palliative Care Network, and Canadian Virtual Hospice, were invited to be champions for indigenous palliative care.

Front Row From Left: Kali Leary, Sherry Cory, : Alethea Kewayosh, Carrie Bourassa, Camilla Zimmermann. Second Row Front Left: Lori Monture, Joanna Vautour, Bernice Downey, Stacey LaForme, Tony Jacko, Leah Bergstrom. Third Row Front Left: Holly Prince, Shelly Cory, Michael Anderson, Gary Rodin, Maxine Crow.

“The goal of our symposia,” said Dr. Gary Rodin, GIPPEC Director, “is to bring stakeholders from diverse communities together with clinicians, scholars and government to facilitate meaningful discussion and actions to improve access to high quality palliative and end-of-life care”.

The GIPPEC Symposium was a product of many months of planning led by Dr. Michael Anderson, an indigenous physician, and facilitated by GIPPEC staff. The planning involved indigenous representation from Cancer Care Ontario, End-of-Life First Nations at Lakehead University, the Union of Ontario Indians, Well Living House, Moose Cree First Nations, Health Canada’s First Nation and Inuit Health Branch, and the Ontario Palliative Care Network.

“It was an event held with FNIM and with FNIM needs as its focus,” said Alethea Kewayosh, Aboriginal Cancer Control for Cancer Care Ontario.

“The most valuable aspects of the symposium were that not only it gave voice to community members and elders across Canada, but it also highlighted the knowledge of the communities. Held in the post Truth and Reconciliation era where we have the political will at both the provincial and the federal levels, this symposium provided an excellent opportunity for different parties to work together and move forward. And we thank GIPPEC for facilitating it and making it happen,” said Dr. Anderson.

While this year’s GIPPEC symposium series has officially ended, the work has just begun. A detailed report of recommendations from the symposia and working groups, reviewed and finalized by members of the planning committee, will be available in the New Year.

To see a recording of the symposium, go to:

For resources on education and partnership building, visit:

More From the GIPPEC Symposium







Related Info

Gary Rodin

Director of GIPPEC at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto

Camilla Zimmermann

Department Head of Supportive Care at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
Head of Division of Palliative Care at University Health Network
Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto

Lesley Chalklin

Program Manager, GIPPEC


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