In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its final report, which included 94 Calls to Action. These Calls to Action offer direction on where systemic change is needed to further reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous Peoples.

Of particular relevance to the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario (COTO) is the section on health including Calls to Action 18-24. These parts of the document address the health disparities faced by Indigenous Peoples and acknowledge how poor health outcomes are linked to the history of colonization in Canada. Recommendations for how to begin addressing these gaps include increasing the number of Indigenous professionals working in healthcare.

In 2020, the College recognized that the first step to “increasing the number of Indigenous professionals working in health care” (specifically occupational therapy), was to understand how many registrants are of Indigenous descent. This would help to establish a baseline that could be monitored over time. While the College is not directly involved in recruiting and educating future registrants, we are the only ones in Ontario in a position to count the number of Indigenous occupational therapists who might be working and practising here. The data we collect could be shared in aggregate with universities, associations, the government and others to inform program development and initiatives. Also, through understanding the Indigenous representation in the profession, we can review our own processes and programs to reduce entry to practice barriers and improve practise resources that may not be meeting the unique needs of Indigenous occupational therapists.

In analyzing the information obtained at renewal in 2020, and after some data validation, we can now report that: 38 registrants self-identified as Indigenous (.6% of total registrants), 9 answered “unsure,” and 69 registrants selected “prefer not to answer.” 

For 2021 we are again asking registrants to self-identify if they are of Indigenous descent.  Working with Indigenous partners to refine the question, it has been modified to clarify that First Nations includes both status and non-status Indigenous Peoples. We also reiterated the question within the answer (“no” has become “no, I am not of Indigenous descent”) to reduce data errors.  Lastly, for 2021 we have also asked those that answer “yes” if they would like to be contacted by the College regarding any of our Indigenous initiatives.

Several of those that identified as Indigenous also expressed an interest in speaking with the College about their experiences as Indigenous occupational therapists and to discuss our Truth and Reconciliation activities.  A focus group has been formed, and initial conversations will focus on the College listening and learning about Indigenous experiences in occupational therapy before planning and informing change.

If you have any questions regarding this step, please contact College Registrar Elinor Larney at 416-214-1177 x233 or