Cultural Safety and Humility

What is cultural safety and humility?

According to the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA):

Cultural safety is an outcome based on respectful engagement that recognizes and strives to address power imbalances inherent in the health care system. It results in an environment free of racism and discrimination, where people feel safe when receiving health care.

Cultural humility is a process of self-reflection to understand personal and systemic biases and to develop and maintain respectful processes and relationships based on mutual trust. Cultural humility involves humbly acknowledging oneself as a learner when it comes to understanding another’s experience.

COBC’s Cultural Safety and Humility Journey

What steps is COBC taking to incorporate Indigenous cultural safety and humility into the practice of opticianry in BC?

On March 1, 2017, COBC joined 22 other BC health regulatory colleges—as well as the First Nations Health Authority and the Ministry of Health—in signing the Declaration of Commitment to Cultural Safety and Humility in the Regulation of Health Professionals. This declaration pledged a commitment to advancing cultural safety and humility among all regulated health professions in BC.

On November 17, 2020, the COBC Board made Indigenous cultural safety training mandatory for all staff, board members, and committee members (current and incoming).

On July 21, 2021, COBC joined ten other health regulatory colleges in participating in an apology ceremony and signing a Joint Statement of Apology and Commitments to Action.

In September of 2021, COBC’s Strategic Plan for 2022–2024 was finalized, with Cultural Safety selected as one of five strategic pillars.

In early 2022, COBC’s Inquiry Committee began a comprehensive review of our Complaints process, supported by Exit 26 Consulting, with the goal of decolonizing all aspects of the process.

On September 30, 2022, COBC introduced a new practice standard for all BC opticians relating to cultural safety, cultural humility, and anti-racism. This standard was developed in collaboration with ten other BC health regulators and builds upon the practice standards released earlier in 2022 by the BC College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM) and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC (CPSBC). Standard 4: Indigenous Cultural Safety, Cultural Humility, and Anti-Racism is now in effect.

In January 2023, COBC proudly unveiled Illumination by Coast Salish visual artist Margaret August as the visual art piece representing the ongoing decolonization of the COBC Complaints system.

In February 2023, COBC added new fields to our annual renewal application, giving registrants the option to self-identify as Indigenous and also to indicate whether they would be interested in being contacted by COBC about opportunities to provide their perspectives on regulatory issues relating to Indigenous cultural safety.

On April 24, 2023, the COBC Board and staff participated in a workshop on territorial acknowledgements, facilitated by Exit 26 Consulting.

Resources for Registrants & the Public

Education Courses

San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety and Humility training program. 
Facilitated by the Provincial Health Services Authority in BC, the San’yas training program is becoming a standard program for all healthcare providers. They offer core training and also a course specifically created for health care providers. 

Indigenous Canada at University of Alberta

Legislation and Government Initiatives

BC Bill 41: A Promising Start to Implementing UNDRIP
Explanation of Bill 41 and its relation to other Canadian legislation and government policies

United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Truth and Reconciliation Commission: 94 Calls to Action

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-Specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care


First Nations 101 by Lynda K. Gray

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

View more book recommendations from the CBC


FNHA Cultural Humility resources 
Webinars and other resources about ICSH

Indigenous Foundations by University of British Columbia
Resources on key topics relating to the histories, politics, and cultures of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada


CBC White Coat Black Art – Cultural Safety: Making healthcare safe for Indigenous patients
An episode of the popular healthcare podcast with Dr. Brian Goldman about cultural safety and San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Program

CBC Unreserved
Stories from across Indigenous Canada from Halifax to Haida Gwaii

Interior Voices
Created by Interior Health exploring the intersection of health and culture in the workplace, everyday life, and patient care

Indigenous Land Rights and Reconciliation
Live panel presentations that theorize the justifications for land right from Indigenous perspectives and investigates how these understandings challenge and enrich theories in the Western tradition

Think Indigenous with Ryan McMahon
Presentations sharing best practices, innovation and delivery models of Indigenous education


CCP Case Study: Indigenous Cultural Safety and Humility
Learn how you can incorporate expanding your awareness into your learning goals for the Continuing Competency Program

Healing racism in Canadian health care. 
(English) By: Boyer Y, CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal [CMAJ], 2017 Nov 20; Vol. 189 (46), pp. E1408-E1409

Developing cultural competence in general practitioners: an integrative review of the literature
(English) By: Watt K; Abbott P; Reath J, BMC family practice [BMC Fam Pract], 2016 Nov 15; Vol. 17 (1), pp. 158

Enhancing health care equity with Indigenous populations: evidence-based strategies from an ethnographic study
(English) By: Browne AJ; Varcoe C; Lavoie J; Smye V; Wong ST; Krause M; Tu D; Godwin O; Khan K; Fridkin A, BMC health services research [BMC Health Serv Res], 2016 Oct 04; Vol. 16 (1), pp. 544

Unmet health needs and discrimination by healthcare providers among an Indigenous population in Toronto, Canada
(English) By: Kitching GT; Firestone M; Schei B; Wolfe S; Bourgeois C; O’Campo P; Rotondi M; Nisenbaum R; Maddox R; Smylie J, Canadian journal of public health [Can J Public Health], 2020 Feb; Vol. 111 (1), pp. 40-49

Structures last longer than intentions: creation of Ongomiizwin – Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing at the University of Manitoba
(English) By: Cook C; MacKinnon M; Anderson M; Whetter I, International journal of circumpolar health [Int J Circumpolar Health], 2019 Jan-Dec; Vol. 78 (2), pp. 1571381

What all students in healthcare training programs should learn to increase health equity: perspectives on postcolonialism and the health of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
(English) By: Beavis AS; Hojjati A; Kassam A; Choudhury D; Fraser M; Masching R; Nixon SA, BMC medical education [BMC Med Educ], 2015 Sep 23; Vol. 15, pp. 155

Insiders’ Insight: Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples through the Eyes of Health Care Professionals
(English) By: Wylie L; McConkey S, Journal of racial and ethnic health disparities [J Racial Ethn Health Disparities], 2019 Feb; Vol. 6 (1), pp. 37-45

“They treated me like crap and I know it was because I was Native”: The healthcare experiences of Aboriginal peoples living in Vancouver’s inner city
(English) By: Goodman A; Fleming K; Markwick N; Morrison T; Lagimodiere L; Kerr T; Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society, Social science & medicine (1982) [Soc Sci Med], 2017 Apr; Vol. 178, pp. 87-94 

Barriers and Mitigating Strategies to Healthcare Access in Indigenous Communities of Canada: A Narrative Review
(English) By: Nguyen NH; Subhan FB; Williams K; Chan CB, Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland) [Healthcare (Basel)], ISSN: 2227-9032, 2020 Apr 26; Vol. 8 (2)

Educating for Indigenous Health Equity: An International Consensus Statement
(English) By: Jones R; Crowshoe L; Reid P; Calam B; Curtis E; Green M; Huria T; Jacklin K; Kamaka M; Lacey C; Milroy J; Paul D; Pitama S; Walker L; Webb G; Ewen S, Academic medicine : journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges [Acad Med], 2019 Apr; Vol. 94 (4), pp. 512-519

Other Resources

A guide to pronunciation of Indigenous communities and organizations in BC

A guide to land acknowledgements

Whose Land

Native Land
A web-based app to help identify Indigenous nations, territories and communities across Canada and beyond. 

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