Four employees in an office looking at the camera, smiling

Westwind Evening, an Anishnaabe Kwe or Warrior Woman and Knowledge Keeper, plays the drum gifted to Sinai Health by the Toronto Central Indigenous Cancer Program.

In many Indigenous traditions of North America, the drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth and the first sound heard in the world. Drums often play an important role in ceremonies, celebrations—and in healing.

Thanks to a gift from the Toronto Central Indigenous Cancer Program, Sinai Health now has a ceremonial drum that First Nations, Inuit and Métis patients can use for ceremonies or spiritual practices during their care journey.

A woman stands with her eyes closed and one hand on her chest. A ceremonial Indigenous drum sits on a table in front of her.

 Westwind Evening opened the ceremony with a prayer and a story about the origin of the first drum. Westwind says that the ceremony around gifting and awakening a new drum is important. “We are welcoming the drum into the human world.”

The drum was gifted in a small ceremony at Bridgepoint Active Healthcare on July 15, bringing together team members from Sinai Health and the Toronto Central Indigenous Cancer Program.

Leonard Benoit, Indigenous Patient Navigator for the Toronto Central Indigenous Cancer Program, notes that in addition to being an important ceremonial tool that patients and families will be able to use, there is significance in giving a drum as a gift. “Drums are often given in recognition of good work or an important relationship,” he says.

Below are some reflections from attendees about the ceremony and the close relationship Sinai Health and the Toronto Central Indigenous Cancer Program have developed in working together to provide a better care experience for First Nations, Inuit and Métis patients.

“The vision of the Toronto Central Indigenous Cancer Program is to achieve holistic care in an environment where the voices, values, and beliefs of Indigenous peoples are heard and respected. This can only be achieved if these values are integrated into the policies and practices of our health care institutions. This drum offering brings us one step closer towards accomplishing that.”

It is with optimism that we share this drum with our colleagues at Sinai Health, to be made available to all your Indigenous patients and their families. Thank you to the team for your ongoing partnership and commitment.”
Suman Dhanju, Regional Director, Toronto Central Indigenous Cancer Program

A man is smiling while holding and playing an Indigenous ceremonial drum

 Dr. Gary Newton, President and CEO of Sinai Health had the honour of awakening the drum by being the first to play it.

“Our collaboration with the Toronto Regional Indigenous Cancer Program team is highly valued and we are committed to listening and learning how we can further support our Indigenous patients and communities. We are honoured and humbled to accept this drum to bring hope and comfort to our patients, their families and caregivers.”
Dr. Gary Newton, President and CEO, Sinai Health

“The gifting of the drum to Sinai Health is reflective of the important relationship that has been established between the Toronto Indigenous cancer program team and cancer care providers at our hospital. We are working together to improve cancer services with and for First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and urban Indigenous (FNIMUI) peoples, in a way that addresses unique and diverse needs, and honours and supports Indigenous well-being.
Susan Blacker, Senior Director, Cancer and Palliative Program Planning and Performance, Sinai Health

“We are really grateful to gather for this ceremony as part of our ongoing commitment and efforts to nurture and strengthen the partnership betweenSinai Health and the Toronto Central Indigenous Cancer Program. This is such a significant milestone and with guidance from Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and community. We are all working towards improving not only the cancer care journey, but the overall experience in accessing equitable supports—like the right to practice traditional healing within the hospital settings.”
Muriel Lopez Silva, Regional Indigenous Cancer Program Coordinator-Toronto Central

A woman in an orange shirt holds an indigenous ceremonial drum. Materials used for a smuding ceremony sit on a table in front of her

Iryna Soluk-Figol, Manager of Spiritual Care, accepted the gift on behalf of Sinai Health.

“Spiritual Care is deeply honoured to be entrusted as the caretaker of an Indigenous ceremonial drum. We are committed to making Sinai Health a safe space for First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, a space where healing can take place, where everyone feels welcomed and cared for. Having access to a drum that can be offered to Indigenous patients, their families, community members and to our staff, so they can use it in a way that is meaningful to them, brings us one step closer to creating safe space – acknowledging the painful past and creating room for healing in the present. Members of the Toronto Central Indigenous Cancer Program team have been extremely generous with their time, teachings, collaboration and support. Migwech.”
Iryna Soluk-Figol, Manager, Spiritual Care, Sinai Health