Siksika Health Services, CPSA sign MoU

Siksika Health Services has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSA) in an effort to eliminate anti-Indigenous racism within the provincial heath care system.

This MoU was signed, Sept. 20, at the Siksika Health Services building on the nation, following a press conference, prayer, and smudging ceremony.

“This MoU is a testament to our dedication to working together towards addressing racism and discrimination that Indigenous people face when accessing healthcare,” said Ike Solway, board chair for Siksika Health Services. “We believe that by combining our efforts, we can achieve greater impact and make a positive difference in all Albertans’ care.”

Siksika Nation Coun. Samuel Crowfoot spoke during the press conference regarding the MoU regarding the frustrations felt by nation members when facing racism and mistreatment while seeking aid from the medical system.

“The very people who are treating us, who are responsible for our care, are quite often the ones who are perpetrating these acts of racism,” he said. “That is a type of evil that needs to be addressed. This MoU is a very explicit, strong statement against those types of activities that happen every day.”

The CPSA is a body representing approximately 12,000 physicians and physician assistants across Alberta.

CPSA Council Chair, Stacey Strilchuk said the organization is committed to learning from Siksika Nation, rebuilding their trust in the health care system, and signaling their desire both to earn and to build relationships with other First Nations communities.

“CPSA recognizes that we have played a role in past harms and trauma to Indigenous peoples and communities in Alberta,” she said. “This MoU is more than a partnership and shared objectives. It is an expression of mutual respect, a recognition of the autonomy of Indigenous peoples and a willingness to work together to ensure Indigenous peoples receive safe, equitable health care.”

In a joint statement from Siksika Nation and CPSA, it is noted the MoU is based upon the recognition of Siksika jurisdiction and inherent right to self-determination.

It is also stated Siksika Health Services acknowledges and endorses CPSA’s regulatory authority over physicians and physician assistants practicing in their community, as well as CPSA authority in the accreditation of medical facilities.

Physicians and physician assistants were recognized as occupying influential roles within the health care system, and all organizations must take an active stance in addressing the problem.

“We are not the entire health care system. We are a small part of it, but we have a responsibility as a leader in the health care system to take action,” said Scott McLeod, CPSA registrar and CEO.

Siksika Health Services is also examining the possibility of creating its own, more localized health care system, according to Solway.

In 2022, Siksika Health Services put out a call to nation members to submit their experiences of racism and/or discrimination within the Alberta health care system. Legal counsel for Siksika is now reported to be looking over the testimonies.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times