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Bringing medicine back to Brunswick House

Friday October 19, 2012
Rick Garrick/Wawatay News
Brunswick House’s Doris Mitchell chats with a doctor from South Africa, left, during Rendez-Vous 2012.

Brunswick House’s Doris Mitchell is bringing positive changes to her home community since establishing her family medicine practice in the area this summer.

“We’ve had great acceptance in the Aboriginal communities,” said the 2010 Northern Ontario School of Medicine graduate who now practices at the Chapleau General Hospital. “Because I’m from there, it makes it a little more easier to open doorways that have never been opened before. It is in its infancy, but it is only going to blossom from there.”

Mitchell has been using the approach she developed as a nurse at an Aboriginal health centre in her role as a doctor.

“But as a physician, your role is different and it’s just trying to work out how different that is,” Mitchell said.

Community members have been telling her how proud they are to have a First Nation doctor serving them.

“I try not to be too assuming,” Mitchell said. “I’m more there with open ears and an open heart to listen to what people need from me.”

Mitchell and two other new doctors at Chapleau General have met with some of the First Nation leaders from the three local First Nation communities, Brunswick House, Chapleau Cree and Chapleau Ojibwe, since they began practicing at the hospital.

“Not only myself, but the other physicians as well, are interested in going on reserve and developing primary medical care programs on reserve and to establish Aboriginal reference groups that relate back to the community at large.”

Speaking at Rendez-Vous 2012, an Oct. 9-14 gathering in Thunder Bay of health professionals from around the world, Mitchell described how First Nations people were pushed to the side while the rest of Canada flourished.

“We weren’t considered as citizens for many years,” Mitchell said. “In 1880, ceremonies such as potlatches, gatherings and protests were considered illegal. It was illegal for more than three Native people to congregate for any reason.”

Mitchell also described how Canada’s residential school system destroyed the family values and relationships of First Nations people.

“Children were taken away as young as four years of age, they were taught different values and beliefs, their language was taken away, they were stripped of their identity, they suffered physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse, they no longer learned or practiced the rites of passage, they entered into puberty in shame and misunderstanding of what that meant to be a female or male,” Mitchell said. “The brothers and sisters were separated by gender and they were also separated by age. There was no parenting model, no community role models.”

Mitchell, whose mother spent 12 years in residential school, asked the Rendez-Vous 2012 participants to imagine how the loss of family, culture, language, education, work and freedom of religion would affect them, multiplied by the 100 years First Nations people were subjected to those losses.

“This was all taken from my people,” Mitchell said. “I want you to think about how that fallout is going to make (a) difference in my people and what that means to how we are today.”
More than 850 delegates from about 45 countries around the world attended Rendez-Vous 2012 to share experiences, opportunities and challenges of community participation in education, service and research.

Rendez-Vous 2012 also featured a cultural social evening with Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic and Metis Nation of Ontario’s Tim Pile as well as a visit to the Waabi-ma’iingan (Grey Wolf) Traditional Teaching Lodge.


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