Andrew Terhoch, Spiritual Care Practitioner for St.Amant and Réseau Compassion Network, has been named to the Canadian Association of Spiritual Care (CASC) National Reconciliation Council. “The work of growing my understanding of the truth of our shared history and the current realities of being Indigenous in Canada is part of my everyday work,” Terhoch shares. “I often think about what I can do and what I am called to do when it comes to reconciliation. I keep that in my consciousness as I do my work and in my personal life, as well.”
The council is the continuation of the work begun by a working group that was created in 2019. Nîmâwin [ᓃᒫᐃᐧᐣ], a Plains Cree word meaning “food for the journey,” was the name given to the first group, whose role was to examine the final reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry, and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. “They were tasked with creating a framework and some recommendations in order to determine what CASC needs to do to live in accordance with those documents”, explains Terhoch.
As CASC is involved in many institutional realms such as health, education, prison systems and social services in general, the goal is to be able to translate those recommendations into a way of being for practitioners. For Terhoch, that means looking at the root and the continuing impacts of colonization, as well as the ways that harms continue to be perpetuated, especially in the realm of health and social services.
“When I think about people with development disabilities and the history of institutionalization, it’s as though there are two parallel harms happening,” he explains. “Indigenous people with disabilities are marginalized in two parts of their identity: the physical makeup of their body and their brain, and also their traditional, cultural ways of being. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and perhaps that’s my personal journey, but it feels really important to acknowledge that.”
Terhoch, who is non-Indigenous, is responsible for organising Indigenous ceremonies at St.Amant, such as sacred fires held to celebrate the arrival of each new season. He works closely with Indigenous Health representatives from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, elders and many others who help him to learn, and most importantly, to be able to offer important spiritual supports to those who receive services at St.Amant.
He’s well aware of the challenges of working within colonial systems and is hopeful that change can and will come. “I work in a beautiful organisation that wouldn’t exist, in many ways, if it wasn’t for the colonial ways of the past and present,” he admits. “As a human, I just want to do the right thing, in whatever ways I can. I’m not sure what that means yet, but it’s a privilege to be called to this responsibility.”
St.Amant itself is continuing down its road to reconciliation, as well. “In the year ahead, there’s a commitment to creating a similar committee at St.Amant,” Terhoch shares. “I get to think about the individuals and families we support every day, to be able to learn from my Indigenous colleagues, and find innovative ways to grow and strengthen those collaborations. The fact that I get to do this work at the national and local level, and to have St.Amant be so supportive, well, it’s truly a blessing.”