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Well Living House celebrates milestones, looks ahead to stronger future for Indigenous communities

Toronto, November 24, 2015

By Corinne Ton That

Drs. Janet Smylie and Michael Dan and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett
Drs. Janet Smylie and Michael Dan and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett at the "Research as Reconciliation" event. (Photo by Enrick Payant)

There was singing, a Métis fiddle duo, a movie screening and an appearance by Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett - all of it in celebration of St. Michael’s Hospital’s Well Living House, an action research centre for Indigenous infant, child and family health.

The Well Living House, which operates within St. Michael’s Centre for Research on Inner City Health, held an event called “Research as Reconciliation” on Nov. 20 to promote, celebrate and build new partnerships between urban Indigenous people and health and social service providers.

“Tonight, we’re hoping to build new relationships and strengthen existing community partners and community members by showing that building Indigenous ways of knowing and doing into applied health research has tangible benefits,” said Dr. Janet Smylie, founder and director of the Well Living House. “In keeping with the theme of reconciliation, this evening is also an opportunity to bridge relationships and new partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people living in Toronto.”

The Well Living House, governed by a counsel of Indigenous grandparents and St. Michael’s, seeks to improve health polices, services and programs so that every Indigenous infant is born into a life that promotes health and well-being. The Well Living House consists of a team of Indigenous health researchers, trainees, front-line Indigenous health practitioners and policymakers.

The event was also an opportunity for attendees to donate to the Well Living Resource Lodge. When built, the Resource Lodge will be a physical and online library containing everything the Well Living House has produced – from oral history reports to research papers.

“It’s a space where anybody wanting to learn from an Indigenous lens could go,” said Jothi Shanmugam, a member of the Well Living House Fundraising Operations Committee. “One of the key aspects of the Well Living House is that all of our main researchers are Indigenous – so we have research produced for Indigenous people, by Indigenous people.”

The Well Living House has already completed another part of its action plan. An anonymous donor gifted the Well Living House with $500,000 for its Reconciling Relationships program. The program will train health care and social workers on ways to build strong relationships with Indigenous people and contribute to safe spaces for the Indigenous community.

Bennett, MP for St. Paul’s, presented the Well Living House’s first Drum and Rattle Award to Cathy Yanosik, vice-president of Philanthropy with St. Michael’s Foundation, who accepted the award on behalf of the donor.

“This is the about the way forward,” said Bennett. “It’s an honour to be here and be able to offer special thanks to Well Living House and St. Michael’s Hospital for the commitment you’ve made as the Urban Angel.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.