Manitoba First Nation leaders appeal for immediate action to end racial discrimination

·3 min read

Sunday marked the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, with this year’s theme being “youth standing up against racism”.

To commemorate this day, First Nation leaders are appealing to all governments, non-Indigenous organizations and health professionals to take immediate action to get rid of racial discrimination against First Nations.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. Grand Chief Garrison Settee will soon meet up with the Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Health Region (NHR) Helga Bryant to discuss ways to address anti-Indigenous racism in the health care system.

“First Nations have and continue to face racism throughout society in all aspects of our lives that we encounter such as in the workplace, resource extraction and destruction of our lands, and accessing socio-economic services and programs,” said Settee in a press release.

“Racism is a form of violence, and it comes in many forms. One form of racism is the exclusion of First Nations in government decision-making structures and tables where significant decisions are made on our behalf with little to no inclusion.”

On March 18, Settee met with Manitoba’s Minister of Health and Seniors Care Heather Stefanson, who saw the importance of building a mutual and respectful relationship with First Nations.

He believes that this initiative by the province is the first step to creating concrete actions as well as set up governance and decision-making structures to improve health services and programs for Northern First Nations.

The Grand Chief’s next step is to reach out to the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada to inquire about their progress on the new co-developed distinction-based Indigenous healthcare legislation to ensure the First Nations are a part of that work.

Likewise, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas wants all governments to recognize and respect the treaties and rights of all First Nations and Indigenous peoples.

“First Nations’ inherent and human rights have been and are under unprecedented attack during this current legislative session with numerous bills being introduced which infringe on First Nations rights in Manitoba,” he said.

“At the federal level, Canada continues to willfully and recklessly discriminate against First Nations by fighting against rulings by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in favour of First Nations and by continuing to take First Nations children and residential school survivors to court over reparations for past human rights violations.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday that the federal government is working with First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis to renew their relationship as well as working in partnership with provinces and territories, health professionals, and educational institutions to address anti-Indigenous racism in the health care systems.

An NHR spokesperson told Winnipeg Sun that the health authority are committed to incorporating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action as it relates to the culture, programs and services provided by the NHR.

“We are willing to strengthen our relationship with our Indigenous partners and communities, and are meeting with MKO Grand Chief Settee to discuss and address anti-Indigenous racism in the Northern region,” said the spokesperson on Monday.

“We acknowledge that we need to take actions and are committed to eliminating racism in healthcare. A blueprint has been drafted and from that, an Anti-Racism Strategy will be created which will address systemic and individual racism in the NHR.”

Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun