Bernice Dubec, Executive Director, Anishnawbe Mushkiki, Thunder Bay: We've been operating for nine years and we have been very well received by the community. We have over 6,000 patients and we have another 2,000 Aboriginal community members who access our various programs and services — under health promotion and mental health to traditional healing as well as pre and post-natal and healthy eating and active living.

[The Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy is a partnership between the Ontario government and 14 First Nations, Métis and Inuit organizations.

The Strategy combines traditional, cultural and mainstream health care to improve Aboriginal health and reduce family violence.]

There are ten Aboriginal Health Access Centres that are funded under the Strategy and we serve over 40,000 Aboriginal constituents in Ontario and that is on reserve and off reserve, in large urban centres and in small communities and it has been a unique opportunity for the Aboriginal community to come together and provide Aboriginal primary health care services to our community members.

Aboriginal people have not enjoyed a good working relationship with mainstream health care. We're noticing that Aboriginal people are being diagnosed at a late stage of their illnesses and that’s because they have not been able to participate in screening or prevention or have access to a physician to get an early diagnosis. And it is through the creation of the Aboriginal Health Access Centres that we are able to increase accessibility to primary health care for Aboriginal people.

Heather: My name is Heather and I have three children. Since I’ve been coming here — it was basically just for pre-natal when I started, 'cause I was 18 when I started coming here..

I've learned how to … well, parenting skills, cooking especially … there are a lot of things I still don’t know how … but I've learned quite a bit of stuff. I've learned how to do a whole bunch of other things that I probably wouldn't have been able to do. And then coming here was just … I think it was just a great experience and I liked it.

Bernice Dubec: We combine all aspects of our health care system into the delivery of our programs and services. We want to ensure that we take a pro-active approach, that we are empowering Aboriginal people to take a more active responsibility in their health care.

Sheila Meekis, Secretary-Receptionist, Anishnawbe Mushkiki: I’ve worked here at Anishnawbe Mushkiki for about a year and eight months and I find that all the workers here have a passion for what they do. It's very important what the Anishnawbe Mushkiki does for the community of Thunder Bay. There are a lot of people that come in just to talk or to have a cup of coffee and there are some people who walk in and say, "I need help." The clients here know that we're approachable and that if they need anything, they can come here and we try to help with everything.

Bernice Dubec: I've seen a lot of people who come here because they feel comfortable. They feel that they are accepted here. So, I think that's one of the reasons people keep coming back to Anishnawbe Mushkiki because we value who they are as a person and we can see their potential and we try and support them in making some positive changes within their lives.