Conference on the Move Report

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine’s education—as with most socially accountable, community-engaged education—is grounded largely in context. The School exists to improve the health of the people and communities in Northern Ontario. This means that the School’s education, relationships, research, and service focus on the unique needs of the people and communities who live in the North.

As part of ICEMEN 2016, delegates had the opportunity to participate in Conference on the Move, a three-day pre-conference bus excursion that travelled from Toronto to Manitoulin Island on the way to Sault Ste. Marie. The purpose of Conference on the Move was to demonstrate the context in which NOSM works, and the importance of the uniqueness of Northern Ontario in NOSM’s model. The preconference trip—which introduced participants to the cultural, geographic, and health landscape of the area—provided a gateway for visiting guests to understand the health of the people and communities of the region.

Some of the many engaging, stimulating, and emotionally powerful experiences on Conference on the Move included:

  • A sunrise ceremony on National Aboriginal Day, which demonstrated Indigenous sharing circles and smudging, as well as the importance of starting the day with gratitude as the sun rises;
  • The WildER Med program, a program that places participants in the Canadian bush where they must care for standardized patients with a variety of illnesses and ailments in scenarios that have been inspired by real-life wilderness medicine 911 calls on Manitoulin Island;
  • A visit to the Great Spirit Circle Trail, where participants engaged in medicine walks, craft making, and a nature hike to connect with their surroundings and take part in local Indigenous culture;
  • A performance by the Debajehmujig Creation Centre’s Global Savages, which powerfully illustrated the impact of Canada’s colonial history on the emotional and social health of Indigenous Peoples; and,
  • A teaching from Elder Emma Meawasige at the former Garnier and St. Joseph’s Residential Schools, who spoke to participants about her experience of being taken away from her family to be educated in the very schools that the participants were viewing.

“We need to work together to resolve these long-standing problems of inequality in our health-care system to correct them. I know your struggles will be great, and you will face many obstacles to ensure that rural areas have the same health opportunities as urban areas. Visiting our community is a start. I am very proud of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and I believe we are on the right path.”

Chief Patsy Corbiere of Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation, located on the north shore of Manitoulin Island, in an address to Conference on the Move delegates