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Siksika Nation and Alberta physicians sign agreement to address racism, discrimination

The board chair of Siksika Health Services says the Memorandum of Understanding is an important step toward making quality change.  (Terri Trembath/CBC  - image credit)
The board chair of Siksika Health Services says the Memorandum of Understanding is an important step toward making quality change. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)

A new agreement between members of Siksika Nation and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) plans to address systemic racism and discrimination in provincial healthcare.

On Wednesday, Siksika Nation leadership and the CPSA — a regulatory organization for Alberta physicians — met at the Siksika Health and Wellness Centre to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which outlines how the groups plan to work together to improve Indigenous health services.

The MOU, which both sides called "historic," includes pledges to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into CPSA regulatory frameworks and support efforts by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

"The parties will support reconciliation through the MOU, working toward substantive and authentic connections and relationships that facilitate quality health care for Indigenous peoples," read the release from the CPSA.

"The well-being of Indigenous peoples will be supported through mutual respect and equal standing in a partnership."

Ike Solway hopes the MOU will deepen signatories' understanding of one another.
Ike Solway hopes the MOU will deepen signatories' understanding of one another.

Ike Solway hopes the MOU will deepen signatories' understanding of one another. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Ike Solway, Siksika Health Services board chair, says signing the MOU is an important step toward making quality change.

"The significance of this day is historical and monumental," said Solway.

"Strengthening [these partnerships] is really enhancing our ability to look at the generations moving forward."

Solway hopes that the MOU will deepen the signatories' understanding of one another and set a new precedent of cooperation between Albertans to deliver more equitable health care.

"[If] we can set the examples here, the municipalities, the larger cities, can look at this as a model of saying, 'Here's a partnership [and a] willingness to come together.'"

Siksika Nation and the CPSA have been working together since 2021. The groups first met in May 2022 to discuss the challenges Indigenous people face when accessing healthcare in Alberta.

Approximately 12,000 physicians and physician assistants are registered with the CPSA.

Scott McLeod, CEO of the CPSA, says the organization has a responsibility to take action as a leader in the province's healthcare system.

"The [CPSA] exists to help guide physicians to provide professional high-quality care...That means we have a direct influence on the practice of physicians," he said.

"We don't have any illusions that one MOU will solve all the problems. This is the first step in a very long journey that we're on together to make sure that we do seriously address racism and discrimination that exists within the healthcare system."

McLeod says that continued learning and work with the CPSA's Indigenous Advisory Circle will help guide the organization's next steps.