Four employees in an office looking at the camera, smiling

Pictured from left to right are, Susan Blacker, Senior Director, Cancer and Palliative Care Program Planning and Performance; Leonard Benoit, Indigenous Patient Navigator, Iryna Soluk-Figol, Manager, Spiritual Care and caretaker of Sinai Health’s drum; Dr. Gary Newton, President and CEO; and Christina Dashko, Spiritual Care Practitioner.

The first annual sacred bundle feast ceremony took place at Casey House on September 22, bringing together sacred drums and their caretakers from eight Toronto hospitals to participate in the feast.

In the last year, the Toronto Central Regional Indigenous Cancer Program (TCR-ICP) gifted a drum for traditional healing to each of the eight hospitals. The drums are available for Indigenous patients and their families to use in ceremonies and spiritual practices.

“Our partnership with the TCR-ICP team is highly valued and has enabled us to improve the care experience for Indigenous patients and their families,” says Dr. Gary Newton, President and CEO, Sinai Health. “It was a privilege to attend this ceremony as we continue this important work. We are committed to listening and learning how we can further support Indigenous patients and communities.”

After a welcome from Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House, the ceremony began with an opening prayer and smudge from traditional knowledge keeper Elder Kawennanoron Cindy White. It was accompanied by traditional ceremony songs and drumming. Elder Cindy smudged all the sacred items and honoured each one with tobacco.

Elder Cindy explained that this ceremony was to thank the drums for the work that has been done and to prepare for the next cycle. An important part of the ceremony was offering two new sacred items to each hospital, a rattle and a copper cup. Each drum caretaker is responsible for the care and access of the cermony bundle (drum, rattle, copper cup and medicines for smudging).

Indigenous patients, their family caregivers and staff can request the use of these sacred items at Hennick Bridgepoint or Mount Sinai by reaching out to Spiritual Care.

Sinai Health’s partnership with the TCR-ICP aims to improve cancer services with and for First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and urban Indigenous peoples in a way that addresses unique and diverse needs, and honours and supports Indigenous well-being. Through this partnership an Indigenous Patient Navigator is available to support Indigenous patients who are receiving cancer care at Mount Sinai. More information, including contact information is available on the Mount Sinai website.