A public health nurse uses CPCHE materials in outreach to First Nations

It was her dream to work as a public health nurse that propelled a young Lyne Soramaki from her home-town near Ottawa to study at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. That was twenty-eight years ago, and Lyne is still in Thunder Bay, living her dream. She is a public health nurse with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit where, among other responsibilities, she works with First Nations organizations to build understanding within the aboriginal community of children’s environmental health. 

It began when the Health Unit was welcomed as a member of the Aboriginal Working Committee. Lyne had recently completed her Local CPCHE Champions training so, at one of the first meetings of the Committee she attended, she offered to do a train-the-trainer session. They agreed.

“It doesn’t matter how much you plan,” says Lyne, “if there’s energy somewhere, you go where the energy is.” 

Lyne’s follow-the-energy style of opportunism soon found another opening for collaboration with the Aboriginal Working Committee. When the Union of Ontario Indians produced Through the Eyes of a Child*, a manual on the environmental health of First Nations children, Lyne joined forces with Lynda Banning of the UOI to develop a presentation for the Best Start Northern Conference.  

“We compiled some CPCHE information on children’s environmental health and some from the Through the Eyes of a Child manual so we could integrate a cultural aspect to the presentation,” says Lyne. 

Lyne and Lynda collaborated again in leading the production of the Protecting Our Children’s Future: A Caring for Mother Earth Checklist, based on a home environment checklist Lyne had already developed, tailoring it specifically to First Nations, with inputs from the Union of Ontario Indians, the Aboriginal Working Committee, the Children’s Environmental Working Group and CPCHE. 

And so the story goes, building collaborative relationships and extending the reach of the CPCHE message. 

The CPCHE video project, which Lyne pilot-tested with service providers of the Aboriginal Working Committee, is a case in point.

“They graciously allowed me to go in and pilot with new parents and pregnant women,” says Lyne, “so I think we did about six sites with the First Nations groups here in Thunder Bay.” 

“They love the video and they feel ownership of it as well because they were involved with the pilots. That’s what’s really great with having done some local pilots here in Thunder Bay, and across the province, is that now those organizations feel some ownership towards the video even though CPCHE was the one that spearheaded it.”

“If something comes up that’s another opportunity to integrate CPCHE information or to develop stuff, for sure that’s the way to go.”

Lyne Soramaki can be contacted by email at Lyne.Soramaki@TBDHU.COM

*Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher at the Canadian Environmental Law Association (a CPCHE partner), and Chair of the CPCHE Coordinating Committee, conducted the technical and scientific review of the document for the Union of Ontario Indians.