Tag Archives: People’s

Investigation finds widespread racism and discrimination against Indigenous peoples in B.C. health-care system

Racism, stereotyping and discrimination against Indigenous peoples in the B.C. health-care system are widespread and can be deadly, according to the findings of an independent investigative report. 

The investigation was led by former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who released her report, titled In Plain Sight, on Monday. 

“We have a major problem with Indigenous-specific racism and prejudice in B.C. health care,” she said. 

The report weaves first-hand accounts from patients, witnesses and health-care workers through 11 key findings, followed by two dozen recommendations for change. 

Nearly 9,000 people participated in the investigation. 

Eighty-four per cent of Indigenous people who participated reported experiencing some form of discrimination in health care. More than half of the Indigenous health-care workers who participated said they had personally experienced racism at work. 

“I am afraid to go to any hospital. When I do have to, I dress up like I’m going to church,” states a young Indigenous woman quoted in the report. 

An Indigenous doctor is quoted as saying: “I have been asked to look after my ‘drunk relatives’ in the ER or have had Indigenous patients [who were considered difficult patients] reassigned to me on the wards when I was a resident.”

The report also sheds light on how current efforts in education and training are inadequate and why more Indigenous peoples are needed in health leadership and decision-making positions. 

Specific allegations 

Turpel-Lafond was asked to lead the investigation after it was revealed that hospital emergency staff were allegedly playing a “game” where they would guess the blood-alcohol content of Indigenous patients.

She was asked to look into those allegations but also to report more broadly on the range and extent of Indigenous-specific racism in the provincial health-care system.

The investigative team was not able to substantiate allegations about the “game” being played in emergency rooms.

They did find, however, “extensive profiling of Indigenous patients based on stereotypes about addictions.” 

Assumptions about substance use were among the many stereotypes the report found were commonly ascribed to Indigenous patients. The investigation then linked how stereotypes can lead to discriminatory care and how this can harm one’s health. 

‘Stereotypes kill,’ nurse practitioner says 

“Those stereotypes kill,” said Tania Dick, a nurse practitioner and member of the First Nations Health Council. 

She recounted the death of her aunt as one such example.


Tania Dick is a nurse practitioner from the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation and a member of the First Nations Health Council. (Kwantlen Polytechnic University)

She said her aunt was taken to an emergency room after falling and hitting her head. But when she arrived, Dick said health-care staff assumed she was intoxicated.

By the time they realized something serious was going on, Dick said it was too late. She said her aunt — who was experiencing a brain bleed — died while being transferred to a major regional hospital. 

Dick said she knows her aunt’s experience isn’t an isolated incident. 

“Almost every community I go to has that same sort of story,” she said. “It just breaks my heart.” 

She said it’s emotional seeing Turpel-Lafond’s report and to see top government officials “shining a light on what we’re living on a day-to-day basis.”

Indigenous people participated in the investigation by sharing directly with investigators by phone, email and via an online survey. Nearly 2,800 people filled out the Indigenous Peoples’ survey. 

Health-care workers were also encouraged to participate through an online survey and by making direct contact with the investigative team. More than 5,000 health care workers filled out the online survey. 

Health minister apologizes

B.C. health minister Adrian Dix called the work of Turpel-Lafond’s team “extraordinary.” 

“Racism has made B.C.’s health-care system an unsafe place for many Indigenous peoples to access services and the care they need,” he said Monday. 

WATCH | Adrian Dix apologizes after report finds widespread racism in health-care system:

Health Minister Adrian Dix has apologized and promised action on the recommendations from an independent investigation into anti-Indigenous racism in the health-care system. 0:55

He promised action and apologized.

“I want to make an unequivocal apology as the minister of health to those who’ve experienced racism in accessing health-care services in British Columbia now and in the past,” he said. 

Dix said he will appoint an associate deputy minister to lead a task force responsible for implementing the recommendations, which include legislative, policy and structural changes focused on changing systems, behaviours and beliefs. 

Action needed, Indigenous leaders say

Indigenous leaders were quick to respond to the report on Monday — emphasizing the need for action on the recommendations. 

We have known for years that the healthcare system in this province treats First Nations people with disrespect and discrimination,” wrote Terry Teegee, B.C. regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, in a news release. 

“Now, thanks to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and her team, we have the proof of this deep seated, systemic and horrific racism within the health-care system.” 

The Association of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC also responded to the report on Monday. In a news release the association thanked Turpel-Lafond for her investigation, acknowledged the findings and committed to responding directly to the recommendations.

“It is our responsibility to work to eradicate the conditions that perpetuate systemic racism,” the association wrote. 

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Hannah Brown Wins Big at 2019 People’s Choice Awards as Exes Colton Underwood & Tyler Cameron Cheer Her On

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Amazon wildfires part of ‘genocide’ facing Brazil’s Indigenous peoples, advocate says

The Brazilian government’s push to escalate agricultural and mining developments in the Amazon at the expense of Indigenous rights actively brought about the ongoing wildfire crisis, Indigenous advocates say.

There are currently over 75,000 wildfires burning in the rainforest throughout the country — an 80 per cent increase over last year, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

Rayanne Cristine Máximo França, a member of the Baré Indigneous people from the Amazonas state in Brazil’s northwest, said the government of Jair Bolsonaro has unleashed an assault on Indigenous people and their lands by emboldening farmers, ranchers and miners to carve deeper into the Amazon rainforest.

Environmentalists have also blamed deforestation for an increase in this year’s fires.

Máximo França, 27, said there has further been a rise in the displacement of Indigenous people from these lands — one that she said often comes with violent death.

“We are facing a process of genocide with this government, also a process of ecocide,” she said in a telephone interview from the capital of Brasilia.

“They are killing us every day; they are killing us with the fire that is happening, they are killing us when they displace us from our territories, when they invade our territories.”


Rayanne Cristine Máximo França, 27, is a member of the Baré Indigneous people from the Amazonas state in Brazil’s northwest. She said the Brazilian government of Jair Bolsonaro has unleashed an assault on the country’s Indigenous people and lands. (Submitted by Rayanne Cristine Máximo França)

In a tweet Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron called the ongoing Amazon wildfires an “international crisis.” Macron said he wanted to discuss the “emergency” during the G7 meeting he is hosting this weekend in Biarritz, France.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted in support of Macron’s call.

There is a direct link with the wildfires engulfing the Amazon and the increased deforestation, Máximo França said, referring to local news reports from earlier this month that said farmers and ranchers in the state of Pará reportedly announced a “Day of Fire” this month to clear out rainforest land for development.

“They started making fires in the territories to send a message,” she said.

One newspaper also reported that the majority of wildfires were on rainforest lands that had been cleared by ranchers and farmers for agricultural use.

Amnesty International calls for Indigenous rights protection

Brazil’s president has been vocal about his disdain for environmental protections and Indigenous territories in the Amazon, seeing them as an obstacle to economic development.

“Where there is Indigenous land, there is wealth beneath it,” said Bolsonaro in 2017, according to a report in the Brazilian newspaper O Estado. “We have to change that.”

While Indigenous territories are protected under Brazilian law and its constitution recognizes an Indigenous right to land, the Bolsonaro government has weakened protections and turned a blind eye to illegal logging. This has led to increased incursions by illegal loggers and increases in illegal land seizures in Indigenous territories.

Amnesty International recently released a report that said the protection of Indigenous rights is “key to preventing further deforestation in the Amazon.” The report also said the “risk of bloodshed” in the Amazon was rising, unless the Brazilian government reversed its current position and began protecting Indigenous lands.

“Since early this year, there has been a surge in the invasion of Indigenous territories,” said João Ghilherme Delgado Bieber, a consultant with Amnesty International, in a text conversation with CBC News.

He was recently in Rondônia state, which is the site of wildfires.

“The deforestation has increased inside these protected areas and Indigenous leaders are threatened for defending their territories,” he said. “The fires, including inside Indigenous territories, further destroy the Amazon.”

Canada asked to pressure Brazil on Indigenous rights

Gilberto Vieira dos Santos, a spokesperson for the Brasilia-based Indigenous Missionary Council, said the elements behind the increased invasion and attacks on Indigenous lands are also behind the burning of cleared-out rainforest being blamed for the rash of wildfires.

“The situation of the fires in the Amazon is in the same context,” he said in a telephone interview.


Some have accused Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of seeing Indigenous territories as obstacles to economic development. (Getty Images)

Vieira dos Santos said countries like Canada, which tout the importance of Indigenous rights, have a duty to press Brazil to change its current trajectory. He also suggested such countries should impose a moratorium on importing Brazilian commodities that affect the Indigenous population in the country.

“The position of the Canadian government is very important,” he said. “Maybe it’s the only real pressure that can have an impact on the situation in the country.

“We believe the government of Canada, with its history and relationship with Indigenous peoples in its country, has position and influence with Brazil and other countries.”

Máximo França said she would also like to see pressure on Brazil from Canada to end the assault on Indigenous people in the Amazon, which she said has a direct impact on the environment.

The very survival of her people is at stake, she said. “If we don’t have land … we don’t have life.”

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'People need access to healthy meals:' Inequality among Indigenous peoples may explain psychological distress

Improving the quality and availability of food could help reduce mental health issues among Indigenous populations in Canada, say researchers who analyzed survey responses from 14,000 Indigenous adults.

Suicide is a major cause of death among First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. Collectively, suicide rates among Indigenous peoples are two to three times higher than among non-Indigenous Canadians, according to previous responses.

Now, researchers have looked at how income-related inequalities relate to psychological distress and suicidal behaviours among Indigenous peoples living off-reserve in Canada.

The survey responses were originally filed with Statistics Canada in 2012, but the numbers had never been crunched this way until they were analyzed and published in Monday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

For the study, researchers looked at which financial factors affect psychological distress, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among Indigenous peoples living off-reserve.

Food insecurity — the uncertainty over having a regular, affordable source of nutritious food — seemed to be a major factor explaining the higher rates of mental health problems among low-income Indigenous peoples.

It's hoped the finding will help shape government policy, said Mohammad Hajizadeh, one of the authors of the study. He's with the School of Health Administration at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

"Let's say if you hypothetically cannot have a policy that affects income, but at least you have to have a policy that tries to address the food insecurity itself," Hajizadeh said.

The study's authors said a complex combination of biological, social and cultural factors contribute to mental health problems. Of these, food insecurity is considered a major contributor, with 28 per cent of off-reserve Indigenous households reporting some form of it in the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey.

"Based on our results, addressing food insecurity among low-income Indigenous peoples living off-reserve may potentially reduce a substantial proportion of the observed income-related inequalities in mental health outcomes," the study's authors wrote.

The idea of food insecurity being linked with psychological distress and mental health conditions makes a lot of sense, said Dr. Lisa Richardson, a strategic advisor in Indigenous health in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto and an Indigenous physician.

"In this era of reconciliation, what are specific, concrete measures that one can take? This paper has given us an opportunity to do it, because we need to address food security. People need access to healthy meals," Richardson said.

The data could draw more attention to the problem of food insecurity in Indigenous communities, she said. 

"What was really powerful for me was to show that specific, explicit link."

Richardson said in her work, she hears that modern scientific methodology doesn't necessarily capture the resilience and protective buffer from Indigenous culture, language and community connections. But those don't matter if someone is hungry, she added. 

The survey findings represent 600,750 Indigenous adults living off-reserve in Canada, the researchers said.

One of the limitations of the research was the survey doesn't collect information from individuals living in institutions such as prisons and hospitals, shelters and groups, where a disproportionate number of Indigenous people reside, the study's authors acknowledged.

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