Partnership between Indigenous and Sikh communities in Calgary tackles COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

Click to play video: 'Calgary’s Indigenous and Sikh communities partner to overcoming vaccine hesitancy'
Calgary’s Indigenous and Sikh communities partner to overcoming vaccine hesitancy
WATCH: It's a very unique partnership that community leaders in Calgary say should serve as a model for others across the country. As Jill Croteau explains, a collaboration between two diverse groups solved a huge problem of COVID-19 vaccine access – Feb 4, 2022

A partnership between two diverse groups in Calgary have come together to tackle a huge concern over COVID-19 vaccine access.

In June 2021, an alliance was created between an Indigenous community group and the Sikh community.

Traditional drummers at Friday event. Loren Andreae/Global News

Together, the Aisokinakio’p partnered with the Dashmesh Cultural Centre and administered 10,000 vaccines.

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Aisokinakio’p is the Blackfoot word for “a place where you take your body and mind to make it healthy”.

Dashmesh Cultural Centre. Loren Andreae/Global News

Friday, the two gathered for a celebration of their potentially life-saving success.

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Dr. Salim Samanani is the medical director of a health services enterprise supporting Indigenous communities. Okaki is Blackfoot for “Be wise.” Okaki facilitated the immunization clinics.

“What started as a tense uncomfortable situation, very quickly people let their guard down and started to see each other as human beings.”

Amanpreet Singh, Dashmesh Cultural Centre president, said their connection is built on trust.

Dashmesh Cultural Centre. Loren Andreae/Global News

“The language barriers were there, but here we always have volunteers helping out and they feel more comfortable walking in with elders,” Singh said.

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Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary CEO Shane Gauthier said the bond formed very organically and made sense.

“The community welcomed this. We want to walk a path of reconciliation of love and understanding and the seven sacred teachings with our neighbours,” Gauthier said.

Vaccine clinic at Dashmesh Cultural Centre. Loren Andreae/Global News

Both cultures honour the core practices of sharing and taking care of others.

Siksika Health Services CEO Dr. Tyler White said it was about giving other communities access to COVID-19 vaccines in a culturally safe space.

Siksika mobile health unit. Credit: Siksika Health Services

“As a First Nation people, we have many challenges and health issues on reserves and a lot of social determinants of health factors influencing the health of our nation,” White said.

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“Other communities are in similar situations and it’s great we can come together for a common purpose to address those common issues.”

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said it should be a model for the rest of the country.

“This community reached the highest vaccine rate in our province, with 99 per cent of people over the age of 12 having at least one shot.”

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