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Sunnybrookers honour ancestors with a sacred fire

November 3, 2023

This week, Sunnybrook’s Bayview campus was the site of an Indigenous ceremony, known as Feast for the Ancestors: A Sacred Fire. The ceremony, led by Leonard Benoit, the Regional Indigenous Cancer Patient Navigator for Toronto Central, was held to honour our ancestors.

Leonard says that the ancestors watch over us and teach us things they had to learn. He adds that fire and food are offered to them as a means of saying thank you and to warm and nourish their spirit as they continue to guide us through our journey.

Despite the cold morning, the fire, coupled with the reflective practice led by Leonard added much warmth to the ceremony. In addition, Anthony Gladue, a traditional firekeeper, shared important teachings into the fire’s spiritual significance.

Guests were 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. Everyone was also invited to put tobacco in the sacred fire, offered for prayers to communicate with the spirit world.

Leonard also acknowledged the upcoming celebration of Indigenous Veterans Day, held annually on November 8, by recognizing the important contributions of Indigenous peoples to missions across Canada and around the world, and reflecting on the inequitable treatment they received once they returned from service.

The ceremony was attended by members of Sunnybrook’s Indigenous Community Advisory Committee, the Senior Leadership Team, the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce and staff from other programs.