The KAIROS Blanket Exercise: Reconciliation through Education and Understanding

Thirty four Bow Valley PCN representatives – physicians, Inter-Professional Team members and clinic managers and staff – plus five colleagues from AHS and Covenant Health participated in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise (KBE) at the end of January. This interactive and participatory history lesson, developed in collaboration with Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and educators, is described as “the history of Canada we rarely learn”. An experiential workshop, the KBE fosters understanding of our shared history as Indigenous – First Nations, Inuit and Métis – and non-Indigenous peoples.

“Colleagues from other PCNs who previously attended a similar ‘Blanket Exercise’ event reported that it was a very moving and impactful experience, one that every Canadian should attend.” says Yvette Penman, Bow Valley PCN’s Executive Director. “It is particularly relevant to our PCN as, according to a recent PCN-level report from Alberta Health, the percentage of paneled patients who are First Nations with Treaty Status in the Bow Valley has increased from 8.9% in 2014 to 10.9% in 2016. The PCN’s provincial average is 2.6%.

Repentance, renewal and decisive action

According to The History of Kairos Movement, the word “Kairos” in Greek can be interpreted to mean not only chronology, but also a time of meaning and choice. It signals a time not only of crisis, but also of repentance, renewal, and decisive action. As well as presenting the impact of the reduction of Indigenous peoples’ access to all of what was Canada’s land to less than one-half of one percent of the country’s land mass, the KBE helps participants understand how Indigenous peoples have resisted assimilation…and continue to do so.

During the KBE, held in Canmore, participants walked on blankets signifying the land and took the roles of Indigenous peoples by reading prompts depicting their past and current experiences. Their historic ‘journey’ took them through situations that portrayed pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance. Trained KBE facilitators, Tim Fox, Russ Baker and Jackie Bromley, assumed various roles and shared their background and personal experiences. Through a concluding ‘talking circle’ participants had the opportunity to deepen their understanding, ask questions, discuss the learning experience and process their feelings.

Calls to Action

“The KBE fit perfectly the Bow Valley PCN and Calgary Zone strategic goal of incorporating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action,” says Bow Valley PCN’s Medical Director, Dr. Dino Smiljic. “Participants in the exercise consistently commented that they were deeply affected by the stories of residential school survivors and the effects on their families. Those effects are profoundly demonstrated in the startling differences in health outcomes compared to non-indigenous cohorts. My hope is that the KBE improves the care of our communities’ indigenous patients.”

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