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“I feel safe just coming here because there are other Native brothers and sisters”: findings from a community-based evaluation of the Niiwin Wendaanimak Four Winds Wellness Program



Urban Indigenous populations in Canada are steadily growing and represent diverse and culturally vibrant communities. Disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples’ experiences of the social determinants of health are a growing concern. Under the guidance of the West End Aboriginal Advisory Council (WEAAC), Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (PQWCHC) launched the Niiwin Wendaanimak Four Winds Wellness Program that seeks to enhance health and community services for homeless and at-risk Indigenous populations in Toronto.


A process evaluation was carried out to (1) assess the collaborative service delivery model; (2) identify service gaps and issues for homeless and at-risk Indigenous populations; and (3) develop recommendations for how non-Indigenous organizations can provide culturally responsive services for Indigenous populations.


In consultation with the WEAAC, a thematic analysis of qualitative data collected from 2 focus groups with community members who access the Niiwin Wendaanimak program and 17 key informant interviews with staff and peers was conducted.


The Niiwin Wendaanimak program bridges teachings of inclusivity and the practice of harm reduction to create a non-judgemental space where community members’ dignity and autonomy is respected. Strengths of the program include Indigenous leadership and access to activities that promote wellness and community building.


As a non-Indigenous service provider, PQWCHC is meeting the needs of homeless and at-risk Indigenous populations in Toronto. Program strengths, system gaps, and challenges including policy recommendations were identified.



Les populations autochtones du Canada sont en croissance constante et constituent des communautés diversifiées et culturellement dynamiques. Les disparités entre l’expérience des déterminants sociaux de la santé chez les Autochtones et les non-Autochtones inquiètent de plus en plus. Sous l’impulsion du conseil consultatif autochtone West End Aboriginal Advisory Council (WEAAC), le centre de santé communautaire Parkdale Queen West (PQWCHC) a lancé un programme de mieux-être, Niiwin Wendaanimak Four Winds, en vue d’améliorer les services de santé et les services collectifs offerts aux populations autochtones sans abri et vulnérables de Toronto.


Une évaluation des processus a été menée pour: 1) analyser le modèle concerté de prestation de services; 2) repérer les lacunes et les problèmes de l’offre de services touchant les populations autochtones sans abri et vulnérables; et 3) formuler des recommandations pour que des organismes non autochtones puissent offrir des services adaptés à la réalité culturelle des populations autochtones.


En consultation avec le WEAAC, une analyse thématique des données qualitatives recueillies à la faveur de 2 groupes de discussion avec des membres de la communauté inscrits au programme Niiwin Wendaanimak et de 17 entretiens avec des informateurs (employés et pairs) a été menée.


Le programme Niiwin Wendaanimak établit un rapprochement entre les enseignements de l’inclusivité et les démarches de réduction des méfaits afin d’aménager un espace non critique où la dignité et l’autonomie des membres de la communauté sont respectées. Les forces du programme sont ses instances dirigeantes autochtones et l’accès qu’il offre à des activités favorisant le mieux-être et la solidarité sociale.


Bien qu’il soit un fournisseur de services non autochtone, le centre PQWCHC répond aux besoins des populations autochtones sans abri et vulnérables de Toronto. Les forces du programme, les lacunes du système et des recommandations de principe ont été déterminées.

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Fig. 1


  1. The term “Indigenous” is an inclusive and international term to describe individuals and collectives who consider themselves as being related to and/or having historical continuity with “First Peoples,” whose civilizations in what is now known as Canada, the United States, the Americas, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Asia, and Africa predate those of subsequent invading or colonizing populations. There is no universal definition of Indigenous peoples, but we chose to use this this term over the 1982 Canadian Constitution Act definition, which includes “Indian, Inuit, and Métis.”


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Correspondence to Michelle Firestone.

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Firestone, M., Syrette, J., Jourdain, T. et al. “I feel safe just coming here because there are other Native brothers and sisters”: findings from a community-based evaluation of the Niiwin Wendaanimak Four Winds Wellness Program. Can J Public Health 110, 404–413 (2019).

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