Indigenous health and RNAO

On this page:  Our journey | Members leading change | RNAO policy | Partnerships with Indigenous peoples | Capacity building | RNAO media | Staff leading change

Our journey: Indigenous health and RNAO 

The discovery of unmarked graves of Indigenous children in Canada led to a nation-wide feeling of deep sorrow. These findings were overwhelming to Canadians and the global community. For school survivors and their families, it was horrific and re-traumatizing. This tragedy propelled Canada to reaffirm its commitment to address the 94 calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.  

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) responded immediately calling on the federal government to support and fund the report's calls to action in a timelier way through its position statement on residential schools and the tragedies associated with them. The blatant atrocities suffered by Indigenous people spurred RNAO to continue its long-standing partnership with Indigenous communities to address the impacts of racism and discrimination on their health and wellness. The association's Indigenous Health Program is growing and includes: partnerships with provincial and national Indigenous groups; best practice guidelines (BPG) for Indigenous communities; and the expansion of the Best Practice Spotlight Organization (BPSO) program across Indigenous communities and Indigenous-focused health organizations in Ontario.

The blatant atrocities suffered by Indigenous people spurred RNAO to continue its long-standing partnership with Indigenous communities to address the impacts of racism and discrimination on their health and wellness.




Residential schools position statement

The position statement speaks about how Indigenous children were forced to attend residentials schools to indoctrinate them into the culture of the legally dominant Euro-Christian Canadian society. The children endured horrific abuse often resulting in death.

The discovery of unmarked graves of over 1,000 children uncovered on the grounds of former residential schools strongly echoes the truth that cultural genocide occurred.




The Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 94 calls to action that address the ongoing legacies of colonialism that have had destructive impacts on the education, culture, justice system, and health of Indigenous Peoples. RNAO speaks to this tragedy and to the calls to action.


Members leading change 

RNAO INAIG Logo white

Indigenous Nurses and Allies Interest Group

RNAO further strengthened its commitment to the rights of Indigenous Peoples by introducing the Indigenous Nurses and Allies Interest Group (INAIG) in the spring of 2021. It marks an important milestone in RNAO’s efforts to support and learn about Indigenous health and practices. We know Indigenous nurse colleagues will help us promote inclusion in all our work.


Rachel Radyk

Interest group chair

Rachel Radyk (She/her)


Become an RNAO member to join this interest group


Members mobilizing change 

RNAO resolutions

Members can make their voices heard and help mobilize change by submitting resolutions to the association for consideration. 

Mandatory Indigenous studies courses

Mandate Indigenous studies courses in the regular nursing school curriculum supported by College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) nursing practice standard.

Voice of the Elders

Advocate for the inclusion of the voices of knowledge keepers and Elders of First Nation, Inuit, and Metis people when teaching nurses and providing nursing and to establish and encourage Indigenous-led health service partnerships to improve wholistic health outcomes for Indigenous people.



RNAO AGM report


Blazing New Trails as Student Leaders

June 25, 2021

At the Annual General Meeting (AGM), a presentation on Blazing New Trails as Student Leaders was hosted by the Nursing Students of Ontario. Chantal Byrnes Leadbeater (top), Policy and Political Action Officer of INAIG and Rachel Radyk (bottom), RN, Chair of INAIG are also featured.

Watch video

Chantal and Rachel

RNAO’s partnerships with Indigenous peoples


Rose Anne Archibald

RoseAnne Archibald makes #HERstory

RNAO congratulates RoseAnne Archibald for her historic election as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. National Chief Archibald is the first woman to lead the assembly.

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NAN Chiefs Assembly on Health Transformation and Governance

In March 2021, RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth attended a signing ceremony during the NAN Chiefs Assembly on Health Transformation and Governance, indicating RNAO will support Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) taking control over its health care through the development of a health transformation process and its own health commission.

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Support for First Nations.

Support for First Nations Communities

This page provides key resources and supports available to address the needs of First Nations' persons and communities during this pandemic to prevent and/or delay the spread of COVID-19.  

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Signing Ceremony.

Chiefs of Ontario (COO) and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN)

RNAO strengthens its relationship with Chiefs of Ontario (COO) and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN). In 2016, RNAO signed a letter of intent with then-Chief Isadore Day. In 2019, RNAO and COO held a formal signing ceremony.


Recognition Awards

June 25, 2021 – Greeta Meekis and Joan Rae from Sandy Lake First Nation, an Indigenous-focused BPSO, were presented with the Honoured Friend of Nursing Award.



Honouring National Indigenous Peoples Day

June 21, 2021 - Rachel Radyk, chair of INAIG and Winter Lipscombe, Treaty #3 Youth Executive of Ontario First Nation Young Peoples Council (OFNYPC) recognized National Indigenous Peoples Day in collaboration with RNAO, the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association (CINA), the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), COO, OFNYPC and INAIG.



Take Your MPP to Work

May 18, 2021 - Take Your MPP To Work featured Indigenous-focused BPSOs: Mamaway Wiidokdaadwin Indigenous Interprofessional Primary Care Team and Chigamik Community Health Centre.


BPSO photo Indigenous

Best Practice Spotlight Organization® (BPSO)

RNAO is working with six Indigenous partners across Ontario to create a tailored program to honour Indigenous ways of knowing and to support holistic community wellness. Indigenous traditional and western best practices have been integrated to strengthen health and wellness. The inaugural Indigenous-focused BPSO cohort includes organizations offering unique health and social services. Their common goal is the quality of life of Indigenous individuals and communities where health providers work and live. The BPSOs include:


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Anishnawbe Mushkiki

Chigamik_sign CMYK(1)

Chigamik Community Health Centre

Mamaway Logo-clear background.png

Mamaway Wiidokdaadwin Indigenous Interprofessional Primary Care Team


Ontario Native Women's Association

Sandy Lake high res logo

Sandy Lake First Nation


Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto




RNAO offered support for several Indigenous communities during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen their registered nurse (RN) and nurse practitioner (NP) health human resources. Close to 25,000 RNs and NPs were deployed to First Nations communities in rural and urban areas across Ontario, over a six-month period in 2020.  



RNAO policy


Recommendation from the NP Vision for Tomorrow Report
Vision for Tomorrow and its recommendations represent the collective experience and expertise of RNAO’s Nurse Practitioner Task Force (NPTF).
Indigenous health
RNAO is committed to advocating for and supporting Indigenous leadership in health in the spirit of reconciliation.
Nurses and First Nations leaders come together to improve health
Ontario nurses and First Nations leaders launched a partnership aimed at eliminating health inequities and improving health care in the province's First Nations communities.

Best Practice Guideline

Promoting Nicotine Free Health and Wellness in Indigenous Parents, Families and Communities

Smoking (commercial tobacco use) during pregnancy is the most important modifiable risk factor linked to adverse pregnancy and long-term health outcomes for both mother and child.  In Canada and worldwide, there is a higher prevalence of commercial tobacco use among perinatal Indigenous women, which is linked to a number of Indigenous and social determinants of health, including colonization. It is likely that most health providers have (or will) encounter Indigenous persons in their daily practice.

Identifying respectful strategies to effectively reduce commercial tobacco use with perinatal Indigenous women and persons is a health system priority. Understanding the many complexities that influence the use of commercial tobacco in Indigenous persons of reproductive age is essential for all health providers and students entering health professions. 


Promoting Nicotine Free Health and Wellness in Indigenous Parents, Families and Communities (working title)


RNAO and Indigenous Peoples in the media

Social media

Get involved. Use the following hashtags on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to participate in the ongoing dialogue:

#EveryChildMatters #TruthAndReconciliation #IdleNoMore #IndigenousNurses

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Tweet URL

RNAO staff leading change

Sept. 30, 2021

RNAO held a half-day education event for staff to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. RNAO has developed strong relationships with Indigenous health partners and felt it was essential to mark the day by increasing our knowledge and understanding of Indigenous priorities. The event was hosted by RNAO’s Indigenous Cultural Safety and Humility Working Group. It included information sessions for staff to learn about the history of residential schools as well as sessions aimed at reflection and ways to integrate the TRC’s calls to action in RNAO's work. 

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation RNAO group photo 1
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation RNAO group photo 2
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation RNAO group photo 3



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