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Focus area

Culturally safe and equitable care

Health equity is about ensuring everyone can receive safe, appropriate and high-quality care – no matter who they are or where they live. Healthcare Excellence Canada (HEC) recognizes that in order to achieve health equity, we must support people working in health systems to address racism and power imbalances in ways that foster safety, reduce harm and make culturally safe and high-quality care available to all.

Culturally safe healthcare shows respect for culture and identity. It incorporates a person’s needs and rights, and is free of discrimination. Equitable care is about meeting every individual’s health needs, no matter their age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, ability or other factors. Both concepts recognize that racism, discrimination and bias create power imbalances that prevent certain people and groups from getting the care they want and deserve. 

In particular, HEC acknowledges the ongoing impacts of discrimination and colonization on First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Systemic racism and a lack of cultural safety are perpetuating health disparities between First Nations, Inuit and Métis and non-Indigenous people living in Canada.  Several reports* provide evidence of racism in healthcare, confirming it as a contributing factor to mortality and a significant patient safety issue. Experiencing culturally unsafe care is a form of harm within the healthcare system. 

Only patients, families and caregivers can decide whether their experiences are culturally safe. They also have knowledge, skills and resources that can help improve how their care is delivered. HEC is committed to prioritizing the lived experience of patients, families and caregivers, and engaging them as respected partners is essential to advancing health equity – as we work to dismantle systemic racism and other forms of discrimination in the healthcare system.

HEC is on a continuous journey towards cultural humility. We commit to self-reflection, as individuals and as an organization, and building our competency to be meaningful, trusted partners through listening, learning and engagement. Our efforts will be guided by the priorities and leadership of equity- seeking groups as we work together to address discrimination, and promote cultural safety and equity in the health sector. 

* These include a report from the Quebec coroner’s office regarding the death of Joyce Echaquan, and In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in BC Health Care.

Featured content

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Virtual Learning Exchange

Over the next year, Healthcare Excellence Canada is hosting several virtual learning opportunities aimed at building our collective capacity to deliver patient engagement approaches that are equitable and inclusive.

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Featured content

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Virtual Learning Exchange

Over the next year, Healthcare Excellence Canada is hosting several virtual learning opportunities aimed at building our collective capacity to deliver patient engagement approaches that are equitable and inclusive.

Learn more

Related Programs

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Next topic:

First Nations, Inuit, and Metis priorities

Engaging with First Nations, Inuit and Métis to ensure their priorities drive reconciliation, quality and safety in healthcare.

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Next topic:

First Nations, Inuit, and Metis priorities

Engaging with First Nations, Inuit and Métis to ensure their priorities drive reconciliation, quality and safety in healthcare.

Learn more