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Sacred Fire lit at Sunnybrook’s Bayview Campus

November 3, 2022

Feast for the Ancestors: A Sacred Fire was held this week at Sunnybrook’s Bayview Campus.

It is the first known ceremonial fire on the hospital’s grounds.

The fire was lit in celebration and honour of all of our ancestors, in a ceremony led by Leonard Benoit, Regional Indigenous Cancer Patient Navigator for Toronto Central.

“For us to know who we are, we must know where we come from,” he said. “The ancestors watch over us and guide us on our journey. They teach us the things that they had to learn. We offer this fire for them, this food for them to say thanks and to warm and nourish their spirit as they continue to be our guide.”

Traditional fire keeper Jake Kakegamic taught those in attendance about the fire and its connection to the spirit world as he lit the fire and invited everyone to place a piece of wood in the fire. Allan Okitchiquo sang and drummed, and Strong Women’s song was performed by Joanna Diindiisikwe Simmons.

Everyone was invited to put a small piece of food that helps them feel connected to their ancestors on a spirit plate. The plate was then offered to the ancestors.

Each guest was also invited to put a piece of tobacco in the fire. Tobacco is a sacred plant often used in Indigenous ceremony.

Dr. Andy Smith, president and CEO, welcomed guests and said the sacred fire is an important step in providing care for Indigenous communities and addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls for Action for Healthcare Organizations.

“And as we recognize and deeply appreciate the people who were here before us and their historic connection to this place, we must also be clearly and overtly connected to our collective commitment to make the promise and challenge with Truth and Reconciliation real in our communities, and right here at Sunnybrook,” he said.