Groundbreaking investigation shows ‘pervasive racism’ against Indigenous people in B.C. health-care system

Of note:

Racism against Indigenous people is pervasive in British Columbia’s health-care system, concludes an investigation that is being touted as the first complete review of racism in a Canadian medical system.

It’s racism that is hurting the health of Indigenous people and leaving them more harshly affected by health crises in the province, including the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, finds the newly released report.

“What it looks like are abusive interactions at the point of care; verbal and physical abuse; denial of service,” Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a well-known Indigenous lawyer and former B.C. advocate for children and youth, who led the investigation at the request of the provincial government, said Monday.

“We have a major problem with Indigenous-specific racism and prejudice in B.C. health care.”

Turpel-Lafond said her team’s recommendations could provide a blueprint for the rest of the country for rooting out racism and discrimination.

The B.C. probe was initiated in June, after B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said he found out about allegations that health-care workers in an emergency room had played a game in which they guessed the blood-alcohol level of largely Indigenous patients before they received treatment.

Métis Nation British Columbia told CBC that health-care staff called the game “The Price Is Right.”

Turpel-Lafond said the investigation did not find evidence of an organized “Price is Right” game, but that it unearthed an even more insidious picture of a system rife with racism and prejudice, that is making the B.C. health-care system an unsafe place for Indigenous people to seek care.

The report, called In Plain Sight, is based on input from 9,000 people, including Indigenous people and health-care workers.

Turpel-Lafond said a second report, a data-analysis of Indigenous-specific health outcomes, will be released in the next month.

The report’s 24 recommendations deal with implementing systems and cultural expectations to root our implicit and explicit racism in B.C.’s health-care system, including the creation of a B.C. Indigenous officer of health and an associate deputy minister of Indigenous health at the provincial government.

Dix on Monday offered an “unequivocal” apology for the findings of racism in the report, and vowed to implement recommendations immediately, including by introducing new Indigenous health liaisons in each of the province’s health authorities.

Indigenous leaders were quick to express their support for the recommendations, saying they were especially urgent in view of the ongoing pandemic.

“There is no time to wait; the current COVID-19 pandemic necessitates constant engagement by First Nations with the health care system, and we categorically demand a safe health care system for our people at this time and going forward,” reads a portion of a statement by the First Nations Leadership Council.

The treatment of a Quebec woman in hospital earlier this year also served to highlight the barriers Indigenous people face to getting care.

Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw mother of seven, died soon after she filmed herself from her hospital bed in late September while she was in clear distress and pleading for help. Toward the end of the video, which was streamed live, two female hospital staff enter her room and are heard making degrading comments, including calling her stupid and saying she’d be better off dead.

The video has created widespread indignation, several inquiries and a lawsuit from Echaquan’s family against the hospital where she died in Joliette, Que.

Source: Groundbreaking investigation shows ‘pervasive racism’ against Indigenous people in B.C. health-care system

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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