Indigenous Self-Identification Initiative

Indigenous Self-Identification Initiative

A confidential and voluntary self-identification process for patients and residents who identify as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit.

Island Health is committed to improving access to care, and providing culturally safe services to all Indigenous Peoples living on Vancouver Island and other regions we serve.

One way we are working to improve services is by asking every person who registers at Island Health if they wish to self-identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit. If you have Indigenous ancestry, you may self-identify. This is based on how you define your identity. You do not need to provide proof. 

As of November 15, all patients who come to Saanich Peninsula Hospital will be asked if they wish to identify as Indigenous during the registration process.

Indigenous Self-Identification Initiative – Brochure
Indigenous Self-Identification Initiative – Poster

What are the benefits of self-identifying?

Voluntarily self identifying as Indigenous helps us proactively offer you access to Indigenous specific services, such as an Indigenous Liaison Nurse (ILN) or Indigenous Patient Navigator (IPN) if available at your care site. If you are Indigenous, you can request these services at anytime whether or not you choose to voluntarily self-identify at registration.

This information will also help Island Health view the overall health status of Indigenous peoples on Vancouver Island, and see where we can improve access and responsiveness of programs and services. We will not be using self-identification information to look at overall health status, etc. until we work with Indigenous communities to create an Indigenous data governance framework.

Who can self-identify?

If you have Indigenous ancestry, you may self-identify. No documentation is necessary.

What is the process to self-identify?
  • The Registration Clerk will first ask if you identify as an Indigenous person.
  • If you say “yes”, the clerk will then ask you if you identify as First Nations, Métis, Inuit, or Indigenous from outside of Canada.
  • If you say “no”, the clerk will record your answer and move on with your registration.
  • If you do not know or are unsure, you can ask to be reminded the next time you register, otherwise you will not be asked again.
  • You can always ask our registration staff to update your self-identification at any time.
I don’t feel comfortable answering this question. Can I choose to not answer?

Yes. Choosing to self-identify is completely voluntary. You can simply state you do not wish to answer the question.

Will I be treated differently if I self-identify as Indigenous?

Self-Identifying as Indigenous will not affect the level of care you receive. The purpose of self-identifying is to ensure all Indigenous people have the opportunity to connect with the Indigenous Health Services available at their care site (services may vary by site).

I am not Indigenous, why am I being asked this question?

We ask all people registering at Island Health if they wish to self-identify as Indigenous – no assumptions are made about a person’s identity. If you do not identify as an Indigenous person, the Registration Clerk will record this and you will not be asked this question again.

Is this information confidential?

Yes. It will be treated like all personal information collected by Island Health.

Read more about how we protect your privacy and confidentiality.

If you have questions about privacy, please contact Indigenous Health at

Can I withdraw my self-identification?

Yes, you can ask our registration staff to remove your self-identification at any time.

How has Island Health collaborated with Indigenous communities to design and implement the Indigenous self-identifier (ISI)?

We understand sharing Indigenous self-identification information is a sensitive and confidential process that needs to be guided by Indigenous patients and Indigenous health leaders to ensure it is being carried out in a culturally safe and supportive way.

1. In April of 2022, the Vancouver Island Partnership Accord Executive Committee endorsed Island Health to move forward with implementing the ISI.

2. In the Fall of 2022, First Nations Health Directors asked Island Health to issue an Expression Of Interest to all Indigenous communities on Vancouver Island that would support creation of an ISI Community Working group.

  • A working group of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit members from community and urban settings met throughout the spring and early summer of 2023 to provide input and feedback on draft training and communications materials.
  • This working group provided valuable input into the content of the online education module for registration staff, and into culturally appropriate internal and external messaging about the initiative.

3. Island Health also consulted with the Métis Nation of BC and First Nations Health Authority on content, planning, and implementation of the ISI initiative.

Feedback? Let us know.

Island Health and the Indigenous Health team are committed to ongoing communications with Indigenous communities and the public about implementation of this initiative. If you have any feedback about this initiative or how it impacts patients, please email

In partnership with:

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Island Health introducing voluntary Indigenous self-identification program at all care facilities

As part of our commitment to providing safe, culturally appropriate care that is free of racism and discrimination for all patients, Island Health is implementing a voluntary Indigenous-self identification program (ISI) at all care facilities where patients are registered to receive services.

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