On behalf of the board of directors of Siloam Mission, this is to acknowledge the concerns that have been expressed by Indigenous led not for profit organizations and others regarding the best way to provide spiritual care and cultural services.
“One thing we all share,” said CEO Jim Bell, “is a commitment to, and compassion for, those living in poverty and homelessness in our inner city. In acknowledging that mistakes have been made, we have accepted an invitation to begin a collaborative conversation in an effort to walk a path together toward resolution on these important matters.”
Arrangements are already underway. Siloam will continue to provide further updates.
In the meantime, we would like to address some of the most common questions and concerns many people have raised.
Does Siloam Mission offer its programs and services through a Christian perspective?
We are proud to be a Christian humanitarian organization that does not discriminate against any individuals or groups. We are motivated by our faith to help those in need. Our doors and services are open to anyone, no questions asked — as they always have been, and always will be. We are guided by our mission, vision and values.
Do you provide spiritual care?
Yes. Our mandate is to provide emergency food, shelter, healthcare, employment training, housing and spiritual care for people who are homeless.
We recognize that spiritual care is an important part of recovery. We are not a church or a house of worship, but we do help people — of all faiths and backgrounds — find a cultural or religious connection, if they so desire.
We have referred people to churches, mosques, temples and other institutions who exist to provide Indigenous spiritual practices.
How many of Siloam Mission’s community is Indigenous?
A significant amount. It’s estimated that between 70-80% of people experiencing homelessness in Winnipeg are Indigenous. During the last fiscal year, 52% of people using our transition services identified as Indigenous.
How many in Siloam Mission’s community practice traditional Indigenous spirituality?
We don’t have a clear answer to this. Right now our Indigenous Education Committee is conducting a cultural competency evaluation, and they will consult with the men and women using our services to get a clearer picture of their needs.
We recognize that there is a wide variety of beliefs in the population we serve, and that even within the Indigenous community we serve there are varying beliefs and practices.
Has Siloam Mission signed on to the Winnipeg Indigenous Accord?
Yes. We are proud to have signed the Accord when it was created in 2017.
Is it true that Siloam Mission has failed to update their commitments with the Accord since 2018?
In 2019 and 2020, Siloam Mission failed to provide written follow-ups and updates to the Accord. This is an oversight on our part. We are working on creating an update for 2021. However, leadership of Siloam Mission has regularly engaged in the meetings and events related to the Accord since 2017. Since signing on in 2017, the organization has also hosted Chiefs and Elders and Indigenous leaders on-site at 300 Princess Street.
Has Siloam Mission cut programing providing cultural and traditional services to the Indigenous community?
No. In the Fall of 2020, our Spiritual Care Coordinator left the organization. That person was qualified to provide spiritual care for our Indigenous community. Since COVID-19 has prohibited all gatherings since, we have not re-hired that position. However, a new Spiritual Care Supervisor is starting later this month. The recommendations from the Indigenous Education Committee, and conversations with Indigenous leaders, will help guide the direction of the spiritual care program going forward — including bringing in people who are qualified to provide spiritual care for the Indigenous community using our services.
Did Siloam Mission cancel smudging and other Indigenous practices on-site?
No. The organization has official smudging protocols and guidelines which you can download here. The organization has also regularly offered blanket exercises, including with staff, donors and the Board of Directors.
In the recently opened Buhler Centre, we made sure to build a specific room to facilitate smudging — including proper ventilation. In the event that room is being used to accommodate people waiting on their COVID-19 test results, we have been able to accommodate smudging in our Art Room.
Did Siloam Mission forego smudging at certain public events?
Yes. There have been public events where we have decided to forego smudging depending on the audience, the venue and the purpose of the event. This not only applies to smudging, but also to public prayer and other spiritual and cultural traditions. These decisions are in no way meant to diminish the significance of spiritual and cultural rituals. We do, however, use a land acknowledgement at every public event.
What is Siloam Mission doing to ensure it provides culturally competent programing for the Indigenous community?
We acknowledge that concerns have been expressed by Indigenous-led nonprofit organizations and others regarding the best way to provide spiritual care and cultural services.
We acknowledge mistakes have been made. We are beginning collaborative conversations in an effort to walk a path together toward resolution on these important matters. Updates will follow.
We have also undertaken a cultural competency evaluation that is being led by Siloam Mission’s Research and Evaluation Specialist.
What does the cultural competency evaluation include?
The report is a summary and evaluation of the practices at Siloam Mission that are contributing to Reconciliation and cultural competency. This includes what progress has been made, and where there may be room for growth.
A process-based evaluation is being utilized to understand various program and service design and efficiencies in relation to practices at the organization. The overall goal is to create a clear picture for the Board of Directors at Siloam Mission, as to how Reconciliation and Indigenous Cultural safety is, or is not, occurring at the organization. As such guiding questions of the evaluation are as follows:
- What is occurring at Siloam Mission in terms of Reconciliation, Indigenous Cultural practices, and cultural competency?
- What could Siloam Mission be doing better to implement reconciliation and cultural competency?
- How are we keeping track and measuring progress on reconciliation and cultural programming?
- How are we addressing the needs of our Indigenous community members?
The researcher is conducting interviews with community members, and staff, where they ask specific questions to try to get the required information without introducing researcher bias.
The researcher will then analyze the interviews for common themes and elements, and then analyze the content against key indicators of cultural competency to measure how Siloam Mission specifically is doing.
Will Siloam Mission publish the results and methodology of the cultural competency evaluation?
Yes. After the evaluation is complete, the results and the methodology will be made available to staff and the public.