The collection of more than 50 attendees was comprised of informed stakeholders with very different backgrounds – each bringing their own perspectives forward in order to collaborate and learn from one another. The participants included: aboriginal elders, physicians, traditional teachers and healers, nurses, aboriginal patient navigators, medical students, community members, outreach workers, and volunteers.
The Symposium was co-hosted by Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) and Pallium Canada. It began with participants forming a circle for a smudging ceremony, followed by a pipe ceremony, and a powerful drum ceremony that consisted of four traditional songs with aboriginal teachings for context. A prayer by elder Norma Assinewe followed the rich ceremonies, in which she beautifully expressed an eager desire to learn about palliative care and the importance of the Symposium. Succeeding the prayer, opening remarks were provided by Chief Patsy Corbiere of Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation (AOK), before Cancer Care Ontario welcomed the participants and provided a background and a needs assessment presentation.
Following a brief break, Dr. Kathryn Downer’s (Pallium Canada’s National Director) informal presentation offered the elders an opportunity to speak and share their wealth of knowledge. After being introduced by their navigators, the respective elders helped facilitate an interactive discussion with stories of their regions and past experiences. For the duration of the presentation, Dr. Downer provided an understanding of the framework of the Learning Essential Approaches to Palliative and End-of-Life Care (LEAP) courseware, as well as an outline of the step-by-step process on how the work was completed.
After the lunch break, the symposium attendees broke into small working groups. The groups were divided into geographic regions in order to help identify unique educational needs, and complete worksheets for reporting. After the working groups session, the event closed with a prayer from elder, Norma Assinewe, and a moving aboriginal travelling song used to ensure the safe travel of all participants. Appropriately, the travelling song is also often played to send off aboriginal peoples during the final stage of their life journey.
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