Manulife joins Indigenous reconciliation efforts with ceremonial garden in Toronto

Amid the growing focus on reconciliation, Manulife Financial Corp. has worked with the Ontario government and Indigenous groups to create a ceremonial medicine garden at its headquarters in Toronto.

The garden was dedicated at a ceremony on Monday at the company’s offices at 200 Bloor St. E. The space will grow sage and sweetgrass to use in gathering rooms by Indigenous employees and partners at the building. The rooms are dedicated spaces at the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation for hosting meetings using traditional ceremonies. The ministry is located near the Manulife offices on Bloor Street in Toronto.

The company, in tandem with the province, as well as Indigenous elders, are working to make sure the garden is culturally appropriate in the way it’s planted and prepared.

Within the gathering rooms, ceremonies such as smudging take place. Smudging, a traditional ceremony in some Indigenous cultures, is meant to purify the space, mind, body and spirit. As the gathering rooms have a separate ventilation system, smudging can take place safely.

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“The smudging room and medicine garden may seem like small steps to some, but this effort by Manulife and the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation provides an example of how government and private business can work together to foster an area of knowledge and cultural exchange. There are no small steps when it comes to reconciliation,” Stacey Laforme, chief of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, said in a statement.

With Monday’s dedication, Manulife’s head offices joins other organizations such as the University of Waterloo, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ont., and Native Child and Family Services of Toronto in hosting traditional medicine gardens.

“Manulife is honoured to host a garden that will provide medicines sacred to many Indigenous peoples. Our hope is that the garden will be a source of reconciliation and inspiration,” Peter Wilkinson, Manulife’s senior vice-president of regulatory and public affairs, said in a statement.

“Ontario is committed to supporting the revival and growth of Indigenous culture and traditions,” said Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation David Zimmer in a statement. “But we can’t do it all alone. That’s why I want to thank Manulife for joining with us in this project. By hosting this garden, Manulife is demonstrating that we all have a role to play in reconciliation – from the government, to the public, and in the corporate world.”

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