Objectives: This research examines links between Métis identity and health and well-being for Métis women at risk of sexual exploitation in British Columbia, identifies user-defined elements of culturally safe health and social services, and recommends ways to improve health promotion and services.
Methods: Twelve semi-structured interviews with Métis women and three focus groups with a total of twenty service providers were conducted in three urban centres in BC: Fort St. John, Prince George, and Vancouver. Primary themes included Métis women’s health and well-being, supports and services for Métis women, and Métis-specific health promotion messaging. Qualitative data analysis was performed using QSR NVivo™ software.
Results: The link between Métis identity and well-being was consistently highlighted. Children and education were important motivators, and in some cases enablers, for improving well-being. Many Métis women reported negative experiences in accessing a range of both Aboriginal and mainstream services due to perceived prejudice. Métis-specific or Métis-inclusive services are desired but currently limited. Among multiple characteristics that contribute to culturally safe services, an open, nonjudgmental atmosphere and trusting client-practitioner relationships are primary.
Conclusion: The effectiveness of health and social services for Métis women is linked to respectful awareness about Métis identity, incorporating Métis women as collaborators, and removing culturally specific barriers. Moving toward cultural safety for Métis women can begin with basic improvements in health promotion and service provision; however, systemic change that addresses the social determinants of health must be fostered through culturally appropriate policy and practice at multiple levels. Changing Métis demographics will increasingly impel governments and organizations to address issues around Métis-specificity.
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