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Indigenous peoples practice diverse spiritual traditions in Ontario, [] reflecting the diversity of Indigenous peoples in Ontario and Canada. This may sometimes include and be practiced in combination with other faith traditions, such as Christianity. It was traditionally used by the Inuit primarily as a survival tool for staying warm in the home, drying clothes and cooking. It is now sometimes used as a ritual teaching tool and as part of opening and closing ceremonies at gatherings, where it has become a sacred symbol of Inuit identity and traditional culture.

Most also viewed Indigenous Spirituality as being inseparable from their traditional Indigenous culture and identity. During OHRC engagements [] with Indigenous peoples, many people spoke about the ongoing legacies of colonialism in Ontario. This included the active suppression and denigration of Indigenous culture, language, spirituality and ways of life by government and church authorities, and concerted efforts to destroy, subjugate and assimilate Indigenous peoples.

Today, many people are reclaiming and reviving Indigenous cultural and spiritual traditions in the process of healing and recovering from historical traumas and their ongoing legacies in the present. I grew up not saying who I was. My father would say he is Mexican. Only over the last 20 years have I felt safe to be able to say who I am.

These sacred ways have enabled us as Indian people to survive — miraculously — the onslaught of five centuries of continuous effort by non-Indians and their government to exterminate us by extinguishing all traces of our traditional ways of life. Today, these precious sacred traditions continue to afford [us] the strength and vitality we need in the struggle we face every day; they also offer us our best hope for a stable and vibrant future. Because our sacred traditions are so precious to us, we cannot allow them to be desecrated and abused. Research and OHRC engagements [] with Indigenous peoples showed that many Indigenous peoples experience systemic barriers when practicing Indigenous Spirituality.

This was often due to organizations' narrow interpretations of what is protected under the Code ground of creed and failure to recognize Indigenous spiritual beliefs and practices as engaging the Code protections. We have a way of life. It is embedded in our daily life. Spirituality is closely bound up with culture and ways of living in Indigenous communities and requires a more holistic or comprehensive Many of the barriers Indigenous peoples encountered were also due to individuals' and organizations' unfamiliarity with Indigenous Spirituality, and how it may differ in form and expression from the way many people understand or practice religion or spirituality.

Native spirituality cannot be adequately understood in these terms. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of native spirituality to grasp is its all-pervasiveness. Many people told the OHRC that they preferred not to identify their spiritual beliefs and practices as a religion or a creed. For some, such terms had a negative connotation due to the residential school experience. Under the Code , a person or group does not have to view their spiritual practice or belief as a religion or creed for it to be protected as a creed.

The Ontario Human Rights Code , Canadian Human Rights Act , Canadian Constitution, Charter of Rights and Freedoms and United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples include legal protections for the fundamental right of Indigenous peoples to freely practice their religious and spiritual traditions, and to be treated equally and with dignity.

The case law has clearly recognized Indigenous Spirituality to be within the meaning of creed under the Code. Individuals and organizations must not impose their own subjective view of what is a creed or creed-related practice for example, falsely assuming that a creed must have written dogma or articles of faith. Where there are legitimate reasons to question if an accommodation need or request is creed-based, [] it is essential that organizations meaningfully engage the Indigenous persons seeking accommodation to learn their perspective on the spiritual or creed-related ificance of their sincerely held belief or practice requiring accommodation.

Section 25 of the Charter [] and section 35 [] of the Constitution Act , recognize and affirm the constitutional rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada. This includes but is not limited to enforcing treaties and Aboriginal land titles, and the right to preserve traditional cultural practices and activities such as fishing, logging, hunting and other customary and sacred traditions.

Van der Peet , the Supreme Court of Canada discussed the underlying legal basis for aboriginal rights:. It is this fact, and this fact above all others, which separates aboriginal peoples from all other minority groups in Canadian society and which mandates their special legal, and now constitutional, status. Where an aboriginal community can demonstrate that a particular practice, custom or tradition is integral to its distinctive culture today, and that this practice, custom or tradition has continuity with the practices, customs and traditions of pre-contact times, that community will have demonstrated that the practice, custom or tradition is an aboriginal right for the purposes of s.

The analysis for determining creed rights under the Code is distinct from the test for determining whether an Aboriginal or treaty right has been engaged under the Constitution. For example, to engage creeds rights under the Code , there is no need to show the continuity of an Indigenous spiritual belief or practice with a pre-contact Indigenous custom or tradition. Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.

Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard. Indigenous peoples have the right to promote, develop and maintain their institutional structures and their distinctive customs, spirituality, traditions, procedures, practices and, in the cases where they exist, juridical systems or customs, in accordance with international human rights standards.

Example : An Indigenous inmate in a correctional facility requested access to Indigenous spiritual services offered through a Native Liaison person, which included healing, talking, sharing or sacred circles, smudge ceremonies, sweat lodges, one-on-one sessions, and making or using a medicine pouch, dream catchers or drums. Despite repeated requests, he did not receive a visit from the Native Liaison nor did he receive Indigenous spiritual literature. However, he did receive a visit from a chaplain and Christian literature within a reasonable period of time.

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal found that while Christian services were reasonably available, the inmate was effectively denied access to Indigenous spiritual services which amounted to discrimination based on his religion and ancestry. The smudging ceremony is a common purification rite performed in Ontario that involves burning one or more sacred medicines, such as sweetgrass, sage, cedar and tobacco. There are many variations on how a smudge is done. The OHRC heard that people often faced barriers when seeking to smudge.

This was often due to a lack of clear protocols and inclusive de measures to facilitate the practice in a timely and appropriate way. As a student I had to submit a request a week in advance for smudging. But if I have a need to smudge, it is not something that I can hold onto for a week. Smudging may sometimes be required at unpredictable times — for example, at a time of death in a hospital, or a moment of crisis during the school or work day.

Where smudging accommodation needs are known to potentially exist, organizations should take proactive steps to facilitate the practice in a dignified and timely way. Example : Many Indigenous ceremonies involve burning traditional medicines like sweetgrass, sage, tobacco and cedar. The new space will allow for Indigenous smudging and other traditional ceremonies to occur at the Ministry. The two-room de features a larger room with a connected smaller space where traditional medicines will be stored, along with access to clean water for ceremonial purposes. When not in use for ceremonial purposes, the combined space can host larger circles and gatherings.

The de for the new space includes Indigenous etchings on a floor-to-ceiling curved glass wall and will feature artwork from Indigenous artists. The Ministry is working with Elders to develop guidelines and educational resources to support it in creating a positive and welcoming space. Through the room, Elders and knowledge keepers will be able to share traditional teachings and provide culturally specific guidance.

Health and safety measures have been incorporated into the de to meet or exceed those required under the Ontario Building Code. It will be our special place to connect with and learn about traditional Aboriginal ceremonies, and provide a dedicated space where visiting knowledge keepers and Elders can lead teachings and offer culturally specific counselling.

Example : A school in a community with large s of Indigenous students tells a student to go outside to smudge, including in inclement weather. Health and safety concerns sometimes pose a barrier to accommodating Indigenous spiritual practices. Only serious and substantiated health and safety risks may be grounds for denying or limiting these requests. Example : A worker at a supportive housing facility for pregnant women and new mothers prevents an Indigenous woman from carrying her baby on her back in an Amauti, a traditional coat with a built in baby carrier.

The woman sees this dress and child-carrying custom as being essential to her cultural identity, tradition and way of life. The worker prevents her from using the Amauti for alleged health and safety reasons that are not investigated or substantiated in any way. Even where a bona fide health and safety risk has been identified, organizations must still search for ways to remove or mitigate such risks to facilitate an accommodation, short of undue hardship. Indigenous Spirituality may also be expressed through other non-ceremonial but customary practices. Example : A boarding home for children requires all children living there to keep short hair.

An Indigenous boy who keeps his hair long in a ponytail for cultural and spiritual reasons is made to cut his hair. This violates Indigenous customary practices and sacred laws, and may be discrimination under the Code. Example : An Indigenous court clerk of Inuit ancestry wears a seal skin pendant on top of her court gown uniform. The court accommodates her wearing the pin or emblem in recognition of its sacred value for her. Organizations also have an obligation to be aware of differences between individuals and groups, and to build in conceptions of equality to standards, rules or requirements.

Area First Nations played a central role in founding, planning and building the hospital [] and continue to have a central governing role today. Its architecture and interior de thoroughly reflect Indigenous teachings. As part of inclusive de measures to meet Indigenous Spirituality accommodation needs, employers, service providers e. Example: protection agency that serves Indigenous and other peoples requires its staff to take full-day Indigenous cultural competency training.

Policies are in place to make sure Indigenous children are placed in culturally appropriate environments wherever possible, and support programs and services facilitate the practice of Indigenous Spirituality. A complete organizational strategy is recommended to prevent and address human rights issues based on creed.

Example: A hospital that provides religious and spiritual support services to in-care patients fails to provide such services to persons who practice Indigenous Spirituality. The job advertisement requires that applicants have a Masters of Divinity. The organization does not have a rationale for this requirement, and so it would not be a bona fide requirement. In fact, this requirement could adversely affect the ability of qualified Indigenous Elders and knowledge keepers to gain employment in this role, and may also prevent the hospital from providing equal services.

Some Indigenous spiritual practices require people to take part in specific activities, sometimes at particular times of the day, week or year. When these observances do not coincide with existing schedules, holidays or break times, or conflict with existing leave of absence provisions, organizations may have a duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship. Indigenous Spirituality is often closely connected to land-based activities, such as hunting, trapping, cultivating and harvesting practices.

For some First Nations, ceremonies and traditions marking big life moments may be integrated into seasonal hunting activities. Persons who are knowledge keepers or Elders in the community may also require time off to lead or support ceremonies for other community members.

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