As of Sept. 20, the Siksika Nation flag now flies among others posted in front of the Strathmore Municipal Hospital.
“It’s been a long journey for many of us. Today is a day we stand united to declare that we say no more to systemic discrimination and mistreatment of our people,” said Siksika Health Services CEO, Tyler White.
The flag is a symbolic gesture more than anything, but it is meant to stand as a reminder that everyone is welcome and deserves quality health care.
“We raise our flag as a symbol of liberty, freeing ourselves from the change of discrimination and inequity. We raise our flag as a symbol for all to see that we, Siksika Health Services, Alberta Health Services and Strathmore Hospital unite in our fight against systemic discrimination,” said White.
The ceremony held on Sept. 20 invited representatives from Siksika Nation, Siksika Health Services, Alberta Heath Services, the Town of Strathmore and other associated organizations who played a role in seeing the representation established.
Siksika Nation Chief Ouray Crowfoot said the flag raising is a positive step forward, so long as it is followed up with the actions expected in its wake.
“It’s not just about words, it’s not just about flag raising, it’s about actions … it’s not just about coming and raising a flag and singing some songs and putting on a headdress. It’s about the next steps forward,” he said. “We can’t do anything about what’s happened to this date, but what we can do is from here forward, make working relationships.”
In his speech given at the ceremony, Crowfoot talked about racism and discrimination having made way into the health care system and the struggle to end the practice.
“Racism has become a norm in our in our healthcare systems … to the point where a lot of our people (think), what’s the use of reporting it if nothing’s going to happen?”
White added systemic discrimination is something he has also witnessed in health care, describing the practice as unfortunate.
A common form of racism and discrimination, he described, is for a First Nations individual seeking aid to be turned away following accusations of being an addict simply seeking their next fix.
“It’s unfortunate that there are those among us who exhibit micro aggression, which tends to lead to systemic discrimination,” said White. “The individuals we have worked with from (the) Strathmore Hospital and Alberta Health Services have stepped forward to address this issue. Together, we will overcome this challenge that limits our ability to live in equality.”
Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule, also speaking at the ceremony, said he is a firm believer in the necessity to follow up to the expectations established by such gestures like raising the Siksika flag.
“This is a day that I feel is like … another piece of a puzzle. And the final puzzle is going to be the image or the picture that we create of a more inclusive and welcoming society for people of all cultures,” said Fule before adding that another pole and base have been ordered to also fly the Siksika Nation flag at the Strathmore Municipal Building.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times