MUHC releases summary of report looking into racism but not report itself

·3 min read
The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) says it will implement 10 recommendations made in a report on systemic racism at the hospital network.  (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press - image credit)
The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) says it will implement 10 recommendations made in a report on systemic racism at the hospital network. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press - image credit)

Quebec's largest hospital network says it will implement the 10 recommendations made in a wide-ranging report on systemic racism — but it stopped short of sharing the 91-page document, which allegedly includes disturbing employee testimonials.

Two years after the McGill University Health Centre commissioned a report looking into racism, equity, diversity and inclusion, a summary of the finalized document was presented to the hospital network's board of directors Friday morning.

It called for more and better equity, diversity and inclusion training, acknowledgements of the existence and history of Indigenous peoples as well as a system to report incidents of discrimination, racism and "biases of all forms."

The report was conducted by a committee co-chaired by two members of the board, Dr. Anita Brown Johnson and Seeta Ramdass.

Among the themes highlighted in the report summary was a lack of racial diversity in leadership and management positions, instances of biased treatment of patients of visible ethnicity, as well as an "inappropriate and derogatory style of communication toward these patients."

Its findings stem from a survey shared with the institution's workforce of 16,000 people. Nearly 1,000 employees participated.

Two out of five respondents identified as a member of an ethnic minority group, and a majority said they were concerned about systemic racism and bias at the institution.

The report is set to be made public once it is translated into French.

'Let us know when it's safe'

Nakuset, the executive director of the Montreal Native Women's Shelter, said she has discouraged Indigenous people from seeking treatment at the MUHC because of the number of instances of anti-Indigenous racism she and her colleagues have heard about.

She said the recommendations were "great," but called for a timeline for implementing them.

"Everything mentioned is going to take time, so let us know when it's safe to go," she said in an interview Friday.

Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada
Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada

Nakuset also said training should be accompanied by some kind of examination of what people retained.

"We've seen a lot of trainings where people just seem to listen to a facilitator and they walk away and they take it or leave it," she said.

Dr. Pierre Gfeller, the MUHC's president and executive director, said the hospital network's management team is charged with making sure the recommendations are implemented.

"[We] will also do more to ensure under-represented groups have equal access to jobs and advancement opportunities, as well as a safe reporting system to address any issue of discrimination, racism and bias," Gfeller said.

In an emailed statement, spokesperson Gilda Salomone said some participants agreed to be interviewed "and were able to share their perspectives and lived experiences, some of which are disturbing. They have been heard and must be taken seriously."

According to reporting by Montreal Gazette journalist Aaron Derfel, who obtained a draft of the report, a Black staff member reported being called the N-word and struck "multiple times" by a manager, who was not disciplined after the incident being reported to the human resources department.

Another account reported by the Gazette recalled the poor treatment of an Indigenous woman giving birth.

Nakuset said that within the last month, she knew of an Indigenous mother, whose child was taken away child services immediately after the birth.

"We have bad feedback about this hospital," she said.

CBC was not able to independently verify the allegations.

The 10 recommendations are as follows:

  • Make diversity, unconscious bias and cultural safety training mandatory for all staff.

  • Develop equity, diversity and inclusion policies ensuring cultural representation in hiring and the advancement of personnel of visible minorities, marginalized backgrounds or underrepresented communities.

  • Create an anonymous reporting system to address issues of discrimination, racism and biases of all forms.

  • Establish an equity, diversity and inclusion office or officer.

  • Reinforce cultural safety.

  • Improve accessibility and accommodations for people with disabilities.

  • Collect sociocultural data.

  • Integrate equity, diversity and inclusion values and initiatives in the MUHC's strategic plan.

  • Push the Quebec Health Ministry to enable an Indigenous-led review of Indigenous cultural sensitivity training.