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Island Health Aboriginal Employment Program receives recognition for grass roots efforts to improve Aboriginal employment on Vancouver Island

September 25, 2013

VANCOUVER ISLAND – The Aboriginal Employment Program at Island Health (Vancouver Island Health Authority) received the 2013 Exemplary Initiative Diversity Award at Simon Fraser University’s Nancy McKinstry Awards for Leadership in Diversity today.

Island Health’s Aboriginal Employment team (l-r): Sheila White, Steve Sxwithul’txw, Alegha van Hanuse and Michele Morfitt.

This award acknowledges the program’s efforts and dedication toward fostering a work environment that reflects Aboriginal people and communities served by Island Health.

Steve Sxwithul’txw, coordinator, Aboriginal Employment Program points out the positive impacts of having a skilled, representational workforce.

“Teams that include talented Aboriginal staff are able to deliver care and services that are culturally sensitive to the needs of Aboriginal people,” Sxwithul’txw said. “Everything we do – from outreach to First Nations youth and prospective employees across the Island, to celebrating the diversity among our existing staff – works toward building a foundation of trust and respect which is essential to our delivery of health services.”

“This award for the Aboriginal Employment Program is a remarkable achievement,” saidParliamentary Secretary for Healthy Living and Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell. “As the largest employer on Vancouver Island and an organization dedicated to improving health outcomes for people across the region, this award underscores the benefits of partnership and collaboration.”

Dr. Brendan Carr, Island Health President and CEO added his congratulations to the Aboriginal employment team. “Not only do they work to build relationships with First Nations communities and organizations, they also have a strong and sincere interest in each and every person who brings their unique set of attributes to health teams,” Carr said.  “It is this deep level of engagement and full-spectrum approach that makes Island Health’s Aboriginal Employment Program award-winning year after year.”

Highlights of the program include:

  • Establishing two internal and three external Aboriginal health care scholarships
  • Establishing a four-person Aboriginal employment team that is effectively engaging the 50 First Nations communities, 6 Aboriginal Friendship Centres, and 6 Métis Associations on Vancouver Island
  • Between June 2011 and June 2013, 180 applicants who self-identified as being of Aboriginal ancestry were hired by Island Health — about 4.5 per cent of Island Health hires
  • Island Health’s Aboriginal employee count increased by more than 50 per cent over the past year and currently stands at 420
  • The overall Island Health employee turnover for 2012/13 was about eight per cent. Within Island Health’s Aboriginal workforce, the turnover rate was four per cent.

For more information, visit Island Health’s Aboriginal Employment program webpage at:

For information on Simon Fraser University’s Nancy McKinstry Awards for Leadership in Diversity visit


Media contact:
Sarah Plank, Media Manager
Vancouver Island Health Authority
Office: 250-727-4275
[email protected]