2024 Women of the Year Awards: Change maker – Winner Glenda Gibbon

Glenda Gibbon, health director of the Squamish Nation, is the winner of the Change maker category of the 2024 Women of the Year Awards


Glenda Gibbon
Health director, Squamish Nation

AT the core of Glenda Gibbon’s academic and career journey is a deep commitment to offering Indigenous communities culturally safe care.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Vancouver Island University, where she specialized in First Nations studies and psychology, Gibbon felt her passion for advocacy become ignited by a desire to delve deeper into the history of her own heritage and that of Indigenous peoples across Canada and the United States.

“My parents and grandparents had told me a bit about Indigenous history, but I think they were trying to shelter me from the information and not instil fear in me as I moved into adulthood,” explains Gibbon. “When I started to learn the history of my family and other Indigenous people, I wanted to be an advocate in any way possible.”

Born in the Wet’suwet’en Nation located outside of Burns Lake, B.C., and raised on Vancouver Island, Gibbon carries a profound sense of responsibility toward her community.

After a decade-long stint at an Indigenous health organization in Nanaimo, during which she worked up to a managerial role, Gibbon transitioned to a position as an advisor at the University of Victoria. However, she missed being able to directly engage with Indigenous communities. She decided to pursue an MBA at Simon Fraser University, ultimately leading to her current role as health director at Squamish Nation.

“Squamish Nation is the second-largest nation in B.C., with over 4,000 community members,” she explains. “The amount of work they’re doing to support their community members through health and wellness initiatives intrigued me.”

Gibbon has now been in the role for four years and oversees six divisions as well as 51 employees and 12 contractors—all while advocating for culturally sensitive health-care practices that incorporate Squamish Nation values. She’s also on the board of the First Nations Aboriginal Primary Care Network.

Her commitment to cultural humility is reflected in the development of a communicable disease plan during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was recognized for its Indigenous-led approach by the Ministry of Health.

More recently, Gibbon and her team have built up their programs to a point where they are “bursting out of [their] offices,” she says. Because of this, the organization is developing a new clinic in the Squamish Valley, which will open in fall 2024. This was one of Gibbon’s original goals: to ensure that the Squamish Valley had the same clinic and services that the North Shore has, since it’s a semi-remote area.

Reflecting on her journey, Gibbon acknowledges the impact of her cultural upbringing and educational pursuits. “Being humble, empathetic and really listening to people has made the biggest difference when it comes to building relationships,” she shares.

Gibbon is most proud of her growth and ability to stay grounded. “I never thought I would be at this place in my life,” she continues, “but my schooling and understanding of my family history led me to want to be a leader in providing culturally safe care.”