The Indigenous Pharmacy Professionals of Canada hosts multilateral 'meeting of the minds'

The meeting was a chance to introduce the IPPC and discuss Indigenous representation in pharmacy, strategies to improve Indigenous health, and anti-Indigenous racism in pharmacy. 

The Indigenous Pharmacy Professionals of Canada met with seven representative bodies for pharmacy in a multilateral “meeting of the minds” that it hopes will repeat every year.

It was a chance to introduce the IPPC and discuss Indigenous representation in pharmacy, strategies to improve Indigenous health, and anti-Indigenous racism in pharmacy. 

IPPC co-chairs Amy Lamb and Jaris Swidrovich led the meeting. “In this profession, we’ve never had a meeting like this. We’ve never actually had all of these representative bodies sit in a room, and talk about one or two issues together. It was really powerful and potent,” said Lamb, who is also the new IPPC CEO. “It’s a very Indigenous way of doing things. You get everybody in a room, and you collaborate and connect, and we are stronger as a whole than we are individually.”

It wasn’t all rosy: the meeting was notably held on unceded territory, and it discussed how longstanding systemic issues and cultural genocide have led to vast health inequities among Indigenous patients. But Lamb also said the groups present were open about discussing uncomfortable truths, sharing in some of the grief around them, and trying to take action to improve.

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The IPPC meeting occurred alongside the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists (CSHP) president’s meeting in Quebec. Members of the CHSP, the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada, the Canadian Pharmacy Residency Board, the Canadian Pharmacists Association, the Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada, the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities and the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Technicians attended.

The groups had varying degrees of understanding around Indigenous issues and different levels of plans to change their internal policies, says Lamb. The Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada is the farthest along, thanks to a program called Project Four, a truth and reconciliation act group that includes Swidrovich as a member. 

But Lamb says they all recognized the importance of making Indigenous-safe and diversity-safe spaces. “There was a shared focus of determining where each organization was in their understanding of the requirements needed for systemic changes on their scope of practice, and also what we are missing in creating safe spaces for the representation of Indigenous people within the healthcare profession."

The organizations also committed to following up and consulting with the IPPC throughout the year as they improve. 

Read: Pharmacy Leader Amy Lamb: "Creating safe spaces for my patients to heal has been my primary goal."

The groups discussed steps forward, such as addressing how to reform the Non-Insured Health Benefits program and other systems of medical coverage and looking at the foundations for health, such as nutrition, access to traditional healing and culture and social factors.

They also talked about addressing anti-Indigenous racism for both practitioners and providers, ensuring culturally safe spaces and practitioners are available, as well as increasing the access Indigenous people have to positions in healthcare. 

Finally, the groups were encouraged to work directly with Indigenous leaders and communities to ensure they understand their stories and priorities.

In addition to the benefits to Indigenous people, these moves will positively impact other vulnerable groups as well, says Lamb. “Anything we do that focuses on resolving anti-Indigenous racism will create safer spaces for all patients and the individuals that care for them.

“We have to fix it because it’s right, but also because it’s going to create safer spaces for all Canadians.” 

Read: CFPC formalizes commitment to cultural safety and humility in delivery of healthcare to Indigenous peoples