B.C. Health Experts confront racism against Indigenous populations

·2 min read

The B.C. government has established a new In Plain Sight Task Team to combat systemic racism against Indigenous peoples. The team was created because of the recommendations that independent reviewer, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, found that Indigenous peoples in B.C. do not have the same ease of access to health care as non-indigenous peoples. Her review, In Plain Sight, details the injustices faced right under our noses, including the evident “health disparity, poor health outcomes, inequitable access to health care, infringement of rights, stigma and harm, and a lack of dignity and respect for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.”

Out of the 185,000 First Nations and Métis patient’s data studied by Turpel-Lafond back in 2020, “more than two-thirds of Indigenous respondents said they had experience discrimination based on their ancestry.” This discrimination is felt that much stronger by Indigenous women, especially given the current stresses on Canada’s health system, including both the pandemic and the overdose crisis.

According to the B.C. government’s website, the team is “led in partnership under a three co-chair model, inclusive of a representative from the Métis Nation: Dr. Kate Elliott, Minister for Mental Health and Addictions, and Minister for Women and Gender Equity, Métis Nation British Columbia; First Nations representative Richard Jock, CEO, First Nations Health Authority; and government representative Dawn Thomas, associate deputy minister, Indigenous Health.” As well, the team is accompanied by guides and respected Elders, Bryce Mercredi and Roberta Price.

The members are directly appointed by the Ministry of Health after consulting with Indigenous health system partners.

Members are looking to unify Canada in one voice of understanding and reflection, which is then fueled by enacting real change, beginning with the 24 recommendations encouraged by Turpel-Lafond’s report. This includes Recommendation 24, which states the task team should remain active for a minimum two years, with periodic updates on their progress.

“We acknowledge that the harm to Indigenous people by our health system is known and has been perpetuated against Indigenous people for generations,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “The task team will support the province as we fulfil our commitment to make the real, meaningful changes needed to ensure we address systemic racism in the health-care system and root out its toxic effects on people and communities.”

Those interested in reading the full report, In Plain Sight, can do so at this website: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/613/2020/11/In-Plain-Sight-Full-Report.pdf.

Haley Grinder, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer

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