In celebration of National Indigenous History Month, we are spotlighting our President and CEO, Nicole Robson, a proud Métis, Jamaican, Scottish, and Welsh woman. In this interview, Nicole opened up and reflected on her personal journey of discovery and how that has fueled her commitment to inclusivity in our care system. 

What does National Indigenous History Month mean to you? 

“National Indigenous History Month holds profound significance for me as it provides an opportunity to learn more about the rich tapestry of cultures, traditions, histories, and contributions of Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit peoples. This month serves as a reminder of the beauty and wisdom encompassed within these diverse communities, often overlooked in mainstream narratives. It offers a time for us all to expand our understanding and appreciation of the multifaceted heritage that exists in our country.” 

You have a wonderfully diverse heritage as Métis, Jamaican, Scottish, and Welsh. What was it like growing up with such a diverse background? How has your heritage influenced your identity and life path? 

“Growing up with a diverse heritage was a journey of self-discovery and strength. Both of my parents are mixed ethnicities. I distinctly remember the sense of being different and often reminded by others that I was different, fielding questions from people like ‘What are you?’  

This desire to belong served as a catalyst for me to explore, learn, and develop a closer connection with my unique cultural background. Growing up, there were a lot of gaps in my family’s cultural history, but the values instilled in me were unwavering – emphasizing equality, the importance of character and values, along with a strong sense of service to others. As I learned more about our roots, I gained a profound sense of inner strength and pride derived from knowing more about the beauty and depth of my family’s culture and history, shaping my authentic self and taking ownership of defining who I am. This journey isn’t over, but it has significantly influenced my identity and continues to guide me on the path I walk today.” 

How do you think your story can inspire the next generation of Métis youth? 

“My hope for the next generation of Métis youth and all culturally diverse youth is that they are empowered and inspired by advocating for themselves, celebrating diversity, and fostering a sense of pride in one’s cultural heritage. In today’s interconnected world, I believe it’s essential for young individuals to recognize the inherent beauty and strength within themselves and in being different. By sharing my journey of self-discovery and encouraging curiosity about their own backgrounds, I hope to empower Métis youth to embrace their strength, uniqueness and cultivate a deep appreciation for their cultural heritage.” 

What is your vision for inclusivity within the Foundation and the Foundation’s work in healthcare for Surrey? 

“My vision for inclusivity within the Foundation centres on fostering a culture of acceptance, respect, authenticity and celebration of diversity. Embracing our collective differences not only enriches our organization but also enhances our ability to support exceptional care and fosters inclusion for the community we serve south of the Fraser. By valuing and leveraging the unique perspectives and experiences of our team members and staff across our facilities, we can cultivate an inclusive environment that promotes collaboration, innovation, and excellence in healthcare through the initiatives we help fund, acting as a conduit for our community and their unique healthcare needs.” 

Empowering Indigenous Voices Within Our Walls

Surrey Hospitals Foundation acknowledges the importance of inclusivity and aims to create welcoming spaces for our staff, patients, and visitors in our facilities. We are committed to supporting Indigenous communities through various initiatives. 

The Foundation is proud to have funded the role of an Indigenous Maternal Child Liaison at Surrey Memorial Hospital—the first of its kind in the province. Working inside the Family Birthing Unit, the role engages with Indigenous life-givers and healthcare staff to improve patient experiences with healthcare; build trust in the health care system; and care for Indigenous life-givers’ physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. 

Indigenous artwork of owl, bear, and wolf inside palliative care unit

Additionally, the Foundation supported the installation of Indigenous artwork inside Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Palliative Care Unit. In the artwork, the owl represents guidance, helping patients transition to the next chapter of their journey and reminding them that they are not alone; the wolf and the bear represent rebirth and unity with the earth, offering a powerful reminder of the cyclical nature of life.  

As we stand in the midst of National Indigenous History Month, these initiatives take on an even greater significance as we continue our dedication to create a space where Indigenous peoples feel seen, valued, and supported. These initiatives are a testament to our commitment to reconciliation and healing. We look forward to bringing more positive changes to our growing community.