Federal ministers are holding digital conferences with provincial and territorial well being counterparts, First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation representatives and medical consultants over the following two days to speak about anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s well being care system.
These conversations are supposed to observe up on an pressing assembly hosted by Indigenous Companies Minister Marc Miller final October in response to the loss of life of Joyce Echaquan, a 37 year-old Atikamekw mom who filmed her final moments in a Quebec hospital.
Whereas that assembly targeted on listening to tales about racism within the well being care system, this week’s conferences are about altering the remedy many Indigenous folks encounter once they search well being providers.
Echaquan’s viral video captured her screams of misery as hospital employees made degrading feedback, calling her silly and saying she can be higher off lifeless. It despatched shock waves throughout the nation.
“That was the tip of the iceberg,” mentioned Ontario Sen. Yvonne Boyer, a Métis lawyer and former nurse who’s participating in the video calls right now and tomorrow.
“When [Echaquan’s] story got here out, there have been 100 extra that didn’t. So it is actually necessary that we do handle this.”
Use Canada Well being Act to drive modifications, says senator
Provincial and territorial well being ministers have been invited to the 2 days of conferences however there have been no official discussions but with the premiers concerning the subject, mentioned a senior federal authorities supply.
Boyer — who has known as on the federal authorities to behave on stories of coerced sterilizations of Indigenous girls — mentioned federal and provincial governments have to work on relationship-building earlier than they’ll transfer ahead.
Boyer mentioned that if the federal authorities cannot come to an settlement with the provinces, it ought to strike a job drive to look into addressing racism within the well being care system by means of the Canada Well being Act.
“Let’s look at every a kind of pillars and see if there are some [financial] sanctions we will put in place to truly drive a very good, arduous take a look at the right way to eradicate systemic racism within the Canadian well being care system,” Boyer mentioned.
The federal supply mentioned the federal government is contemplating all choices to assault the issue — together with inserting situations on provincial well being transfers.
Some Indigenous leaders and well being consultants say they do not need to go that far.
“I’d fear that this dialog would devolve in a short time right into a federal and provincial and territorial battle round jurisdiction, which is usually the place we find yourself when Indigenous peoples’ coverage areas are mentioned and it’s actually unlucky,” mentioned Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a nationwide group representing greater than 65,000 Inuit dwelling throughout Canada.
Self-determination seen as key
Obed mentioned Ottawa can respect Inuit self-determination — and act in opposition to systemic racism in well being care — by sending well being transfers to Inuit organizations as a substitute of letting the provinces and territories administer them.
“Should you take this fully out of an Indigenous perspective — what if, to have most cancers care in Ottawa, you needed to go to Mexico?” Obed mentioned.
“That actually is the jurisdictional distinction between coming from Grise Fiord within the Excessive Arctic to Ottawa [for] care. I do not assume Canadians understand simply how … self-determination is totally misplaced. Sure, we could be grateful for the care regardless of the place we obtain it, however that doesn’t imply we needs to be subjected to racism.”
College of British Columbia regulation professor Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond lately discovered proof of widespread stereotyping, racism and profiling of Indigenous peoples in an anti-Indigenous racism evaluate of the B.C. well being care system — findings that she mentioned might be constant throughout Canada.
“These are important findings in British Columbia, however definitely the proof would counsel that that will not be distinctive to British Columbia,” Turpel-Lafond mentioned.
In her analysis, Turpel-Lafond additionally discovered that the opioid epidemic and COVID-19 are disproportionately affecting Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous well being care employees and college students are dealing with important racism of their work and research environments.
Like Obed, Turpel-Lafond mentioned she does not need to see monetary punishments used in opposition to the provinces however she does need to see Indigenous-specific well being laws that defines the standard of care — one that features anti-racism instruments that may measure outcomes.
“We have to get folks on-side to handle it,” Turpel-Lafond mentioned. “We have to incentivize remedy.”
If the two-day assembly fails to supply tangible outcomes, it might not bode properly for the success of promised federal Indigenous well being laws Ottawa is making an attempt to co-develop with Indigenous leaders and communities, mentioned the federal supply.
The digital convention could not come at a greater time for the Métis Nation, which is struggling to work out well being care funding preparations between the provincial and federal governments, mentioned David Chartrand, vice chairman of the Métis Nationwide Council.
Indigenous Companies’ First Nations and Inuit Well being Department doesn’t present providers or protection for Métis folks.
“There’s clearly a very totally different approach that Métis are being handled in Canada, which is unbelievable,” Chartrand mentioned.