AHS improves access to Indigenous spiritual ceremonies

June 21, 2023

Patients supported to hold smudging and other ceremonies inside all AHS sites

EDMONTON – Alberta Health Services (AHS) is expanding supports for the practice of Indigenous spiritual ceremonies inside all AHS facilities.

Today, on National Indigenous Peoples Day, AHS announces the creation of the Patient Access to Indigenous Spiritual Ceremony Policy to ensure all patients are supported to hold ceremonies no matter where in the province they are receiving care.

“I am pleased to see Alberta Health Services take this meaningful step to ensure Indigenous peoples, wherever they access care from AHS, can access spiritual ceremonies that are crucial for their healing,” says Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health.

“This new policy, along with additional resources that have been put in place, will help make AHS facilities more welcoming and inclusive for First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.”

Dedicated AHS Indigenous Wellness Core staff, Indigenous hospital liaisons and traditional wellness coordinators are available throughout the province to assist in facilitating ceremonies.

“AHS understands the importance of ceremony in Indigenous culture and supports its patients and their families to practise smudging and other ceremonies in our sites,” says AHS President and CEO Mauro Chies.

“With the adoption of the Patient Access to Indigenous Spiritual Ceremony policy, we ensure all patients are consistently supported and feel safe to incorporate spiritual ceremonies while they are in our care.”

Smudging and pipe ceremonies play an important role in Indigenous patients’ healing journey and are practised by many Indigenous cultures as a way of cleansing the body, mind, spirit and emotions. There are many different protocols associated with ceremonies based on different Indigenous cultural practices and beliefs.

“It is very important for Indigenous people to pray and make that connection with the Creator every day, and even more important if we are healing and are sick,” says Sheila ‘Penny’ Fox, a traditional wellness coordinator with AHS Indigenous Wellness Core. “It is very difficult for an Indigenous person to go into an unknown place and feel comfortable, feel safe and willing to receive care. Reducing these barriers brings us peace, improves trust and promotes healing.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action calls upon Canadian healthcare systems to incorporate traditional healing practices for Indigenous patients and families. This policy helps ensure that no matter where in the province patients receive care, they can and should expect the same access to ceremony as part of their care plan. This is just one more way that AHS is striving to provide culturally safe care for Indigenous patients and families.

For more information, visit www.ahs.ca/ceremony.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Our mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans. Our current focus is on reducing emergency department wait-times, improving EMS response times, increasing access to surgeries, and improving patient flow.