Cultural Safety At Work


“It is great to have respect for the cultural practices within the communities we live and practice in.”

Cultural safety is a huge step in the reconciliation of our Indigenous communities.  It is my belief that everyone should be educated of our past, present and future identity as Indigenous peoples. There is always room for learning and growth as individuals, organizations and communities to help better understand cultural safety.

As an example of being aware of how you use cultural safety in the workplace. I had lost an uncle and was scheduled to attend a professional development workshop on the same day the funeral was. Our family comes from a strong line of culturally involved people. Our culture is very private but most often after a death in a family/community. The family will gather for four days after the death and the loved one will be buried on the fourth day. My uncle, the oldest of eight children and possibly a residential school survivor although it has never been talked about, had stated before he passed that he did not want anything cultural. While wanting to honour his wishes, there were mixed feelings about this in my family.

My Executive Director at the time asked me, “Are you sure you want to miss this workshop you are registered for? Even though it is just a celebration of life.”

This question upset me, I felt angry and like I had been punched in the stomach. I felt defensive and like I had to justify my choice thinking that if we had gone by our traditions and teachings, I would have been away from work much longer, and the statement from the Executive Director would be more insensitive.

I privately addressed the issue with my direct supervisor and stated that I was offended by the lack of empathy for my spiritual and emotional loss I was dealing with. He arranged a meeting with the three of us to resolve my cultural safety concerns. My Executive Director apologized. She was from a different community and had perspectives based on her own history.

Understanding is a huge factor in a positive outcome for anything culturally related. We are often coming together from different places and need to work together with empathy and compassion. For me, the saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” also applies to how we relate to each other as we grow professionally as adults. If we are in a positive/supportive community that values and uplifts us, our world will be a much better place.

Sophia Rice