Cultural Safety: A Framework for Interactions between Aboriginal Patients and Canadian Family Medicine Practitioners

  • Ava C. Baker Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta
  • Audrey R. Giles School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario
Keywords: Cultural safety, Aboriginal health, family medicine, residency


Current approaches for non-Aboriginal family medicine practitioners encountering Aboriginal patients are based in cultural sensitivity, which is an inadequate model to satisfy the obligation of family medicine residents and physicians to Aboriginal health in Canada. In this paper, we advocate for the adoption of a cultural safety approach as a superior method for training family medicine residents in interactions with Aboriginal patients. Family medicine programs can integrate cultural safety into their curriculum by teaching residents about the colonial history of Aboriginal people to foster understanding of power imbalances. This knowledge can then be used to help family medicine residents learn to identify their own biases that may affect the care of Aboriginal patients. By advocating for family medicine practitioners to use cultural safety to challenge their own concepts of culture and to address their own worldviews, patient encounters between non-Aboriginal family physicians and Aboriginal patients may be made safer and more productive.