#OneEastToronto — Meet Les Harper

#OneEastToronto shares the faces of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), a group of more than 50 community, primary care, home care, hospital and social services organizations in East Toronto working together to improve the way local residents access and receive care. Meet Les Harper, Indigenous Health Promoter at South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC).

“I’ve been working with SRCHC for almost five years as an Indigenous Health Promoter. Community engagement and partnerships play a crucial role in my success in reaching marginalized community members. Partnerships like East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) and Anishnawbe Health Toronto, which provide low-barrier access to COVID-19 testing and vaccines for community members, are critical for my work.

In my role, I also work closely with Casey House, Sanctuary Toronto and other community health centres in East Toronto, to name a few. During the pandemic, much of my outreach has involved connecting clients with existing resources since many in-person services, drop-ins and community meals could not continue. Harm reduction is a critical principle I use in my work with SRCHC’s most marginalized clients to address the social determinants of health.

Where possible, I look for opportunities to connect Indigenous communities to health organizations that use traditional healing in primary care models. I also organize opportunities for the community to connect with the culture through storytelling, arts and cultural ceremonies and events. In addition, I’ve played a considerable part in organizing the programming for National Indigenous People’s Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at SRCHC.

I acknowledge the importance of working with people on their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. This holistic approach is fundamental when working with Indigenous people because of the trauma that survivors, and their loved ones, have faced because of residential schools and colonization.”