Dialogue – Decolonizing Wellness: Indigenous Women’s Perspectives on Healthcare

November 30, 2021, 9 am–1 pm

This event will be held virtually and presented in partnership with the UBC Learning Circle, Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health and the First Nations House of Learning at UBC. Support from the UBC Anti-Racism Initiatives Fund and the First Nations Health Authority contributed to making this event possible.




Artwork by Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun, created for the In Plain Sight review in 2020.

 In November of 2020, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond (Aki-Kwe) released the report In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in BC Healthcare. The Indigenous-led report presented clear evidence of systemic, anti-Indigenous racism in BC’s Healthcare system. It found that Indigenous women, in particular, are disproportionately affected, as they experience discrimination and stereotyping along axes of both cultural background and gender. Indigenous women have a greater need for health services and bear a greater burden of poor health outcomes, yet they face inequitable access to health care when compared with any other population examined in the Review.

“Decolonizing Wellness: Indigenous Women’s Perspectives on Healthcare” takes place on the one year anniversary of the In Plain Sight Report. Bringing together Indigenous women in health leadership, the Dialogue will continue to explore the report’s findings, take stock of where we are now and explore possible solutions to the ongoing realities of anti-Indigenous racism and sexism within the healthcare landscape. Unique perspectives will be provided by scholars, policy-makers, practitioners, and other leaders that have the potential to influence positive change.

Co-facilitated by Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond (Aki-kwe), Dr. Margaret Moss, and Harmony Johnson, the Dialogue will consist of presentations, moderated discussions and Q&A sessions showcasing:

  • Relevant context, reports and data, highlighting the current realities for Indigenous women in the healthcare system;
  • What has been achieved in BC and other jurisdictions to create supportive healthcare systems, health equity, and support women’s wellness; and
  • Indigenous women in leadership, including barriers, supportive conditions, and ways that building working coalitions amongst Indigenous women’s leadership can foster positive change.


Doris Fox is a Musqueam Elder. Ms. Fox serves on various Boards, committees, advisories, research projects, and works at several Health Clinics in Vancouver. As well, Ms. Fox is on a few Elders Circles. Doris uses her training as a traditional healer to serve the people and communities that she works for. Pre-COVID, Doris worked at many different Health and Wellness Days using many different healing techniques that she was taught by teachers from around the world. Doris Fox teaches traditional Cedar Bark weaving as well as traditional Salish Weaving. Each time she leads a workshop, she teaches the history of the crafts and about the importance of intellectual property.  

Elder Roberta Price, Coast Salish Matriarch, Elder of the Snuneymuxw and Cowichan Nations and advisor to UBC

For over 30 years, Elder Roberta Price has actively shared her leadership, wisdom and teachings at UBC and throughout the Lower Mainland to assist both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members to achieve improved outcomes in health care. A member of the Coast Salish Snuneymuxw and Cowichan Nations, she has been instrumental in helping to create shared spaces for both Indigenous and Western approaches to healing and health. Her ongoing involvement and leadership in research projects have been key to the continued work of decolonizing health care and creating cultural safety and equity for Indigenous patients.

Dr. Terri Aldred, Medical Director, First Nations Health Authority

Terri is Carrier from the Tl’Azt’En territory located north of Fort St. James. She is Lysiloo (Frog) Clan who are traditionally known as the voice of the people. She follows her mother’s and Great-Grandmother’s line Cecilia Pierre (Prince).  Terri grew up in both the inner city of Prince George and on the Tachet reserve (in Lake Babine Territory) and these experiences helped motivate her to go to medical school so she could give back to her community. Terri has a Bachelor of Health Science Degree and a Doctor of Medicine Degree from the University of Alberta. She then went on to complete the Indigenous Family Medicine residency program through the University of British Columbia. At present, Terri is the Site Director for the Indigenous Family Medicine Program, Family Physician for the Carrier Sekani Family Services Primary Care team that serve12 communities in north-central BC, the Medical Director for Primary Care for FNHA, and the Indigenous Lead for the RCcBC. Sna Chaylia.

Dr Danièle Behn-Smith has been working to support Indigenous health in the Office of the Provincial Health Officer since 2015. 

Dr. Behn Smith works alongside Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer. Dr. Behn Smith provides independent advice and support to the Ministry of Health on Indigenous health issues. In support of the ministry’s strategic agenda, Dr. Behn Smith works in meaningful partnership with Indigenous collectives, communities and organizations to advance wellness and disrupt colonial practices and policies.

Dr. Behn Smith is Eh Cho Dene (Big Animal People) of the Fort Nelson First Nation in B.C. with French Canadian/Métis roots in the Red River Valley. Since getting her Doctor of Medicine from McMaster University and completing residencies at the universities of Ottawa and Manitoba, Dr. Behn Smith’s career has spanned the country and the globe.

She has practiced rural medicine in remote and First Nations communities across Canada. She was a board director for the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada, the director of education for the University of Alberta’s Indigenous Health Initiatives Program and the site director of the University of British Columbia’s Aboriginal Family practice residency. Since 2014, she has transitioned to a functional medicine practice. Functional medicine is a complex systems biology approach to family practice that resonates with Indigenous approaches to health and healing. 

Leslie Bonshor, VP Indigenous Health, Vancouver Coastal Health

Síselé (Grandma), Mother, Auntie, Sister, Friend and life partner are some of the first ways Leslie defines who she is. Leslie and her many generations of family members come from the Stó:lō Nation, Ch’iyaqtel  and the Nooksack Indian Tribe.

Leslie was appointed to the newly created Vice President of Indigenous Health for Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) in May 2021.  Leslie joined VCH in 2015 as the Director leading the Indigenous/Aboriginal Health team and then appointed to Executive Director before the appointment to VP.  VCH is the second regional health authority in BC that Leslie has provided service and leadership as the inclusion of cultural safety and reconciliation has grown since the formation of the First Nations owned and operated health authority (FNHA).  She first entered the provincial health system as the Director of Aboriginal Health at Fraser Health, another new position created in FHA, a direct deliverable of the Transformative Change Accord from 2005.  Since 1998 Leslie has been working to improve the health and wellness of the Indigenous population either as a business consultant, board member, and volunteer or health director. 

Leslie has been building the team at VCH including a leadership team of Indigenous Directors to advance the strategic work internally and with the Indigenous population and organizations.  Progressive and meaningful change through a system transformation approach is making a significant impact across the health system.   Advancing all of their initiatives through the lens of Indigenous women and cultural safety; acknowledging the world views of the Indigenous population, and upholding the mandate and recommendations of all the leading documents and commitments.

Lauren Brown, Health Director, XaaydaGa Dlaang Society – Skidegate Health Centre, BSN, MA, is from the Haida Nation. She advocates for improving Aboriginal health and has experience in policy and program development, teaching and government relations. She has worked in various provincial organizations, including Chief’s Committee of Health and Healing Our Spirit, and in-patient advocacy at BC Women’s, BC Children’s and St. Paul’s hospitals. Lauren served for seven years on the board of the First Nations Health Directors Association, and more recently on the board of the Minister’s Advisory Council on Indigenous Women.

In 2003, Lauren moved to the Haida Nation community in Skidegate, BC to assume the role of health director at Skidegate Health Center. Though challenging, this fulfilling role allows Lauren to influence positive changes in health in her community.

The proud mother of two girls, Lauren is committed to learning the Haida language, Xaayda K’il. She holds a bachelor of science in nursing from UBC and earned a Master of Arts in Leadership – Health from Royal Roads University.

Dr. Nadine Caron is a member of the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation. She is a practising surgical oncologist in northern British Columbia where she provides cancer screening, diagnosis and surgical care for individuals in rural, remote, and northern BC – a large percentage of whom are Indigenous. Dr. Caron is the sole Indigenous physician within BC Cancer, the only Indigenous academic faculty member within the University of BC’s Faculty of Medicine, a Professor at UBC Northern Medical Program and Department of Surgery as well as a Senior Scientist at Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at BC Cancer. Dr. Caron is the inaugural First Nations Health Authority Chair in Cancer and Wellness at the University of British Columbia. She is also a founding co-Director of the UBC Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health and Consultant in development of BC’s first-ever Indigenous Cancer Strategy to improve Indigenous cancer outcomes and experiences in BC. “Improving Indigenous Cancer Journeys: A Road Map”. Dr. Caron currently leads the development of the Northern Biobank Initiative, including a First Nations-governed and controlled biobank in partnership with the FNHA that aims to provide safe access to cancer research for First Nations people in Northern BC. She is also co-Lead investigator on the Silent Genomes project which aims to address the genomic divide by reducing access barriers to diagnosis of genetic disease in Indigenous children and facilitating a governance framework to inform policy in fields of data sovereignty, genomic research, Indigenous research processes, among others.

Tania Dick, Adjunct Professor, UBC School of Nursing, hails from the Dzawada’enuxw First Nations of Kingcome Inlet and has been a registered nurse in British Columbia for 12 years. Her entire career has been spent in rural and remote nursing, specializing in emergency and Aboriginal health. She attained her master of nursing degree in the nurse practitioner program at UBC in 2010. She currently works full time as a general duty nurse in her father’s rural village of Alert Bay, B.C.

Tania has been a board member and since 2015 the President Elect of the Association of Registered Nurses of British Columbia, representing the voice and issues of Aboriginal and front-line nurses, and has played a key role in advancing the association’s work around Aboriginal health nursing. She also served on the board of directors of the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada, representing B.C. and Alberta, and was a member of CNA’s Expert Committee on Aboriginal Health. Tania has served as a BCNU union steward, chair for an equity seeking caucus, and worked as a BCNU staff consultant in Aboriginal health policy. Recently, she was selected to participate in the prestigious Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.

Tania’s goal is to empower nurses to use their voices, and work in a united way to benefit not only the nursing family, but also the health of all British Columbians.

Dr. Kate Elliott, Minister for Mental Health & Addictions, Minister for Women & Gender Equity, Métis Nation BC, is a member of the Métis Nation of Greater Victoria. In her professional life, she is currently Minister of Women & Gender Equity and Minister of Mental Health & Addictions for Métis Nation BC and Chairperson of Métis Women BC. Kate obtained both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Victoria and recently completed UBC’s Indigenous Health Family Medicine Residency training program based out of the Cool-Aid Clinic in Victoria. She has extensive experience working with Indigenous communities on Vancouver Island in support of healthcare equity and access.

Dr. Margo Greenwood, Academic Leader of the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health, is an Indigenous scholar of Cree ancestry with years of experience focused on the health and well-being of Indigenous children, families and communities.  She is also Vice-President of Indigenous Health for the Northern Health Authority in British Columbia and Professor in both the First Nations Studies and Education programs at the University of Northern British Columbia.  While her academic work crosses disciplines and sectors, she is particularly recognized for her work in early childhood care and education of Indigenous children and for public health.  Margo has undertaken work with UNICEF, the United Nations, the Canadian Council on Social Determinants of Health, Public Health Network of Canada, and the Canadian Institute of Health Research, specifically, the Institute of Population and Public Health. 

Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Lynn Malerba is the first female Chief in the Mohegan Tribe’s modern history.  Lynn follows in the footsteps of her mother, former Tribal Councilor Loretta Roberge, and her great-grandfather Chief Matagha (Burrill Fielding). She served as Chairwoman of the Tribal Council and Executive Director of Health and Human Services. Prior to her role at Mohegan, she spent 23 years in the field of nursing, ultimately the Director of Cardiology and Pulmonary Services. She earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice at Yale University, named a Jonas Scholar; a Masters’ Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. In addition, Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of St. Joseph awarded her honorary Doctoral Degrees.  

Lynn chairs the Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee of the Indian Health Service, is the Secretary for the United South and Eastern Tribes board, is a member of the Justice Department’s Tribal Nations Leadership Council, NIH and Treasury Tribal Advisory Committees.

She authored “The Effects of Sequestration on Indian Health Funding” (The Hastings Center Report, Nov-Dec. 2013) and two chapters in “American Indian Health and Nursing” Ed. Margaret P. Moss.

Dr. Shannon McDonald, proudly Metis/Anishinabe with deep roots in the Red River Valley of Manitoba, is the Acting Chief Medical Officer at the First Nations Health Authority. Dr. McDonald is a trained physician with post-graduate medical training in Community Medicine and Psychiatry and has worked for over 25 years in First Nations and Aboriginal Health. Dr. McDonald has extensive experience both in the federal and provincial government contexts. As an influential leader, Dr. McDonald was awarded BC’s Physician Champions of Change award by the Doctors of BC for her leadership and advocacy for physician services in BC’s rural and remote First Nations communities.

K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett is a citizen of the Heiltsuk Nation and the elected Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council. She is currently serving her fourth consecutive term as Chief Councillor, beginning in 2008. She is the President of the Coastal First Nations/Great Bear Initiative and is a member of the Vancouver Coastal Health Board of Directors. She previously held the position of the BC Assembly of First Nations Women’s Representative on the National Assembly of First Nations Women’s Council and Co-Chair of the Wild Salmon Advisory Council and former Board of Director for the BC Assembly of First Nations. During her time as Chief Councillor, Marilyn has guided the Nation on many major endeavours focused on protecting Heiltsuk title and rights and British Columbia’s marine health. Marilyn views Heiltsuk title and rights and way of life as intrinsically connected to a protected and healthy coastal environment.

Dr. Shannon Waters is Coast Salish and a member of Stz’uminus First Nation on Vancouver Island. She initially worked in her home territory as a family doctor but became frustrated with seeing people mostly when they were unwell. Wanting to focus on keeping people healthy in the first place, Shannon completed her specialty training in Public Health and Preventive Medicine. Shannon has worked in public health and preventive medicine federally, provincially and at First Nations organizations. She is currently honoured to have come full circle and to be working in her home territory as the local Medical Health Officer with Island Health. Her priorities in her work are a connection to the environment, mental wellness, and maternal/child/family health.


Margaret P. Moss, PhD, JD, RN, FAAN, is an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation (Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota), and has equal lineage in a Canadian Dakhóta Nation in Saskatchewan. She has been a nurse for 32 years and is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing.  Dr. Moss is the first and only American Indian to hold both nursing and juris doctorates. She has been in academia for 21 years.  She is currently, at the University of British Columbia as Director of the First Nations House of Learning, and in the Faculty of Applied Science as an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing. She has been on faculty at the University at Buffalo, Yale University, and the University of Minnesota. Dr. Moss was a 2014 Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Aboriginal/Indigenous Life and Culture in the North American Context at McGill University, Montreal, QC (2014). As a RWJF Health Policy Fellow she staffed the US Senate Special Committee on Aging (2008-9) and was original lead staff on the now enacted National Alzheimer’s Project Act. Moss has published the first nursing textbook on American Indian health (Springer 2015), which won AJN Book of the Year in 2 categories (2016). Her next text, Health Equity and Nursing (Springer) was out March 2020.  She has given over 150 presentations on these topics especially in and about the four settler states New Zealand, Australia, Canada and across the US. She was just appointed to the Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice (BPH) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (2021).

Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Aki-Kwe, is the Academic Director of the Centre. She is a Canadian lawyer, former judge, legislative advocate for children’s rights and a professor at UBC’s Allard School of Law. She holds a law degree from Osgoode Hall at York University, a master’s degree in international law from the University of Cambridge, and a doctorate of law from Harvard Law School. As a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Aki-Kwe was the first Treaty Indian to be named to the judicial bench in Saskatchewan. She has served as a Representative for Children and Youth for BC, and continues to draft legislation, provide legal advice and speak to all levels of government.


Harmony Johnson is of the Tla’amin First Nation. Harmony has over 15 years of experience in executive and senior roles in health and in First Nations policy, health, intergovernmental relations, and self-governance. She currently operates her own consulting practice, serves as the interim Vice-President for Indigenous Wellness and Reconciliation at Providence Health Care, and teaches in issues of colonialism, racism, Indigenous human rights, and Indigenous health. She is the co-author of a number of publications on these matters, and about the history and teachings of Tla’amin peoples.


9:00 – 9:30 am Opening Protocol
Elder Roberta Price and Elder Doris Fox will welcome guests and panelists and establish an appropriate tone and space for the day. Elder Roberta and Elder Doris Fox will draw upon ancestral teachings about Indigenous women’s well-being and leadership.
Elder Roberta Price and Elder Doris Fox
9:30 – 10:30 am Establishing the Context
This panel session will provide context about the intersections of colonialism, racism, and sexism impacting Indigenous women’s health. Panelists will address the human rights of Indigenous women and outline the status of Indigenous women’s health and wellness in BC, including system performance. They will discuss associated recommendations and identify strategies in other jurisdictions that support Indigenous women’s health and wellness.
Dr. Margo Greenwood, Chief Lynn Marelba, Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Dr. Danièle Behn-Smith and Dr Shannon McDonald

Moderator: Dr. Margaret Moss

10:30 – 11:30 am Responding to the Recommendations
This session will identify existing and/or needed initiatives and interventions for the  creation of justice, safety and substantive equality for Indigenous women. Panelists will explore work underway to address In Plain Sight and other recommendations related to Indigenous women’s health, and identify existing barriers to health equity.
Dr. Nadine Caron, Dr. Kate Elliott, Dr. Terri Aldred, Leslie Bonshor

Moderator: Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

11:30 am – 12:30 pm Supporting Indigenous Women’s Leadership and Building Coalitions
In this session, panelists will reflect on requirements to support the success of Indigenous women in healthcare leadership and identify strategies for ongoing relationality, collaboration, and partnership. They will address both the barriers to leadership faced by Indigenous women in health, and the conditions for success. And finally, they will look toward building working collaborations for success.
Dr. Shannon Waters, Lauren Brown, Tania Dick,Chief Marilyn Slett

Moderator: Dr. Margaret Moss
12:30 – 1:00 pm Moderated discussion and Q&A
The Dialogue will conclude with a moderated, roundtable discussion with all panelists. There will be an opportunity for questions from the audience.
All panelists

Moderator: Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond