Indigenous healing room opens in pediatric unit at Michael Garron Hospital

Michael Garron Hospital in east Toronto has turned a room in the pediatric unit into an Indigenous healing room with help from members of its Aboriginal Healing Program.

Room is painted with 7 Grandfather teachings and medicine wheel

Elder Little Brown Bear and Sarah Downey, president and CEO of Michael Garron Hospital, celebrate the opening of the new pediatric Indigenous healing room. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

Michael Garron Hospital in east Toronto has turned a room in the pediatric unit into an Indigenous healing room with help from members of its Aboriginal Healing Program.

Over the summer, the members painted the room's walls with spirit animals, the seven grandfather teachings and a medicine wheel.

Elder Little Brown Bear, who is Mé​tis, runs the Aboriginal Healing Program and was recently made manager of Indigenous Culture for the hospital, formerly named Toronto East General.

About 1.5 per cent of people in the hospital's catchment area identify as Indigenous, a slightly higher rate than the city overall.

Images of spirit animals adorn the walls accompanied by an information sheet on the significance of the animal. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

"I had a vision about what needed to happen in pediatrics," he said.

At an executive meeting, he encouraged the hospital executives to become innovators, not imitators where reconciliation is concerned.

"It's about the generations; for us we always have the seven generations that follow us in our footsteps," he said.

"What happens today is going to affect what happens down the line."

On the wall entering the healing room are the seven grandfather teachings within the image of a dream catcher. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

'It's an organizational journey'

"Aboriginal people were the first people to live in this country," said Sarah Downey, president and CEO of the Michael Garron Hospital.

"I think it behooves the public sector organizations and certainly health care services to figure out how we can help in the healing journey many Aboriginal or First Nations people are on."

The team believes that this is the first pediatric healing room of its kind in Toronto, perhaps the province.

'I was thinking about community, families and some of those families that have yet to make it to the doors of Michael Garron,' says Elder Little Brown Bear about his thoughts while painting the murals. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

The room is open to people of all spiritual backgrounds and the hospital encourages patients in the pediatric unit to request more information if they feel they would benefit from the space.

"This is a small step but an important step on our journey of truth and reconciliation," said Downey.

Recognizing the value of Indigenous healing practices and making them available for Indigenous patients where requested was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action 22.

The hospital hopes to have a special room where patients would be able to smudge with traditional medicines available soon.


Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.