Indigenous health lead appointed to London Police Services Board

Vanessa Ambtman-Smith.
Vanessa Ambtman-Smith. Facebook

The newest member of the London Police Services Board hopes to be a “conduit,” that’ll bring Indigenous voices to the decision-making table.

Vanessa Ambtman-Smith was appointed to the board Tuesday by the province’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services for a two-year term and currently works as the Indigenous Health Lead for the South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).

In that role, the Cree Metis woman has experience building relationships and empowering Indigenous people to have a more active and inclusive role in the health-care community. It’s something she aims to achieve at the police level too.

“I see my role in sort of building from an understanding of an Indigenous worldview, [and] using my voice as an Indigenous person to retell our story in a way that makes sense,” she explained.

The ways that we do that are very much grounded in appreciating and respecting the level of dialogue that’s needed to ensure that Indigenous voices are being carried forward in a way that’s meaning and going to result in change.”

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As for change that needs to happen, Ambtman-Smith says one of her goals is to shed light on missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“We need to do more to understand why Indigenous women are more vulnerable than non-Indigenous women.”

Ambtman-Smith is raising a family in London, after moving from Alberta around four years ago. She says she brings the Indigenous voice to the forefront by communicating with communities about their lives, and their needs.

She joins the police services board along with Ward 3 Councillor Mo Salih, who was appointed by London city council late in October.

The two new members come after the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services approved a city hall request to boost the board from five members to seven, as allowed by the Ontario Police Services Act for municipalities with populations greater than 300,000.

“I am very pleased to have Ms. Ambtman-Smith and Councillor Salih join the London Police Services Board,” said board chair Dr. Jeanette Eberhard, in a statement.

“Their backgrounds, professional knowledge, and history of community engagement will make them valuable members of the Board.”

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Ambtman-Smith’s term ends Nov. 28, 2019, while Salih’s term ends exactly a year earlier. The London Police Services Board is the civilian body that governs the London Police Service.