On September 22, 2020, members of McGill University’s Department of Family Medicine were invited to a virtual kitchen table conversation, hosted by Richard Budgell, Associate Professor of Inuit and Northern Health Promotion and Alex McComber, Assistant Professor and responsible for the Indigenous Health Promotion Program in the Department of Family Medicine, about the design and purpose of an Indigenous space in the Department. With the Family Medicine offices on Côte-des-Neiges undergoing an expansion, the floorplan of the new office space includes provision for a room to be used for Indigenous sharing, learning and teaching.
During the event, members of the Department took turns answering questions presented by Prof. McComber and Prof. Budgell about how the space should be used, look like and feel like. The common thread was that Department members would like this space to be dedicated to learning – it has to have teaching elements to enlighten anyone coming in about Indigenous concerns, issues and history. As the Department has a vibrant research program, it was proposed that the space should also include examples of research done by Indigenous Peoples to learn about the methods used. Media such as books and oral history can be used for that purpose. It was also expressed that the space should be a place of outreach for the community, of peace, and quiet.
Physically, Department members felt the space should be flexible to host conferences or to be repurposed for discussions and readings. It was recommended to have chairs and tables that are easily movable to attain this goal. For decor, the space could benefit from plants and art – it can have photos on the wall of elders who have helped make this idea a reality. Most importantly, the space is being created for Indigenous Peoples, welcoming members in the Department who want to learn and share in peace and respect.
“This project is more than just a physical space,” notes Prof. Budgell, “it is an opportunity to turn a physical space into a spiritual host – a nest. We can make a real contribution in terms of Indigenous work in Family Medicine.” Subsequent to this discussion, Prof. McComber will reach out to members of the Indigenous community to seek their guidance and advice to create the plan for the space. This is an important step for McGill and the input of the community is primordial. “We want to be committed to supporting the idea of a space – and how that works with research and clinical work of Family Medicine. We appreciate that Family Medicine is the centre for community-based participatory research, which is so key to working with Indigenous communities since 1990s,” adds Prof. McComber.