Cultural Competency

Way We are glad you are here.

This site is for anyone working with Aboriginal people in the Okanagan. It has been created to help build meaningful relationships with the Aboriginal people whom you serve.

We invite you to explore the resources assembled here. They can be used like a self-directed course. You can skim through subjects that catch your eye, or use the resources to go deeper. We have assembled these materials to better equip you to help Aboriginal people feel safe in accessing services.

Why cultural competency?

Many Aboriginal people don’t trust—and therefore don’t use—mainstream services because they don’t feel safe from stereotyping and racism. If an Aboriginal client seems anxious, fearful, reticent, angry or unusually quiet, it is likely that they do not feel safe in the situation. As research has proven that Aboriginal people have lower life-expectancy than non-Aboriginal Canadians, making services culturally safe is therefore crucial to ensure better wellness outcomes for Aboriginal people.

A recent study by UBC Okanagan found that it is a common experience for Aboriginal recipients of care to be subjected to stereotypes that amount to racism and discrimination. Erroneous assumptions by service providers have resulted in negative experiences that prompted patients to avoid accessing further services. In short, these clients felt at risk. They did not see the service provider’s office as a “safe” or welcoming place—a place that offered “cultural safety.”

Because of these persistent experiences, Aboriginal people are less likely to seek help when they have symptoms and more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage of disease than non-Aboriginal people; a delay that can make treatment more difficult or no longer possible.

It matters! When Aboriginal people experience culturally safety in receiving services, we are more likely to access services earlier, and to feel empowered throughout the process. We are more inclined to share details about our concerns and preferences, and more willing to follow plans recommended by professionals.

Welcome and please enjoy this introduction to our cultural competency site. It shares Syilx perspectives that highlight the value of delivering services in a culturally competent way.


Video: Health as a Partnership (2:47): The first of the series of ONA-produced video clips that are featured as resources on this site.
Website: Cultural Safety Project: This collaboration between UBC Okanagan and Aboriginal organizations including the ONA is developing new approaches to increasing cultural safety.