The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Canada needs more independent media. And independent media needs you.

Did you know that most news organizations in Canada are owned by just a handful of companies? And that these companies have been shutting down newsrooms and laying off reporters continually over the past few decades?

Fact-based, credible journalism is essential to our democracy. Unlike many other newsrooms across the country, The Tyee’s independent newsroom is stable and growing.

How are we able to do this? The Tyee Builder program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip into our editorial budget so that we can keep doing what we do best: fact-based, in-depth reporting on issues that matter to our readers. No paywall. No junk. Just good journalism.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to be Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
News
  |  
Indigenous
  |  
Health
  |  
BC Politics

Report Finds ‘Widespread and Insidious’ Racism against Indigenous People in Health Care

Turpel-Lafond investigation shows substandard treatment and calls for sweeping change.

Moira Wyton 30 Nov 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Moira Wyton is The Tyee’s health reporter. Follow her @moirawyton or reach her here. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

An Indigenous woman wakes up in a hospital far from her rural community in 2018 and again in 2019, dry heaving after both of her surgeries.

She thinks she could be allergic to the sedative, but the nurse assumes she is going through withdrawal, despite the fact she hadn’t been drinking before either surgery. “You people drink too much,” the nurse says, and moves the woman to a bed where she doesn’t get further care for three days.

A health-care worker witnesses an Indigenous patient go untreated for days against medical advice. The patient eventually had a stroke that could have been prevented.

An Elder described how her teeth were forcibly and improperly removed when she was at a residential school. Her mother was held for nearly two decades in the Nanaimo Indian Hospital.

The woman now avoids the hospital and the dentist out of fear, and is assumed to be drug-seeking when she seeks care for lifelong tooth infections. “We don’t give drugs,” the staff say.

And she describes how, while still a teen, a urologist performed a rough examination, and said “Come on, you know you native women like it rough,” when she cried out in pain.

A first-of-its-kind report into anti-Indigenous racism in B.C. health care has found these and hundreds more horrific stories of racism against Indigenous peoples seeking care.

Racism is “widespread and insidious” in every corner of the health system, according to the report, titled “In Plain Sight.”

After surveying and interviewing almost 9,000 patients and health-care workers about decades and generations of their experiences, the investigation found that 84 per cent of Indigenous patients had experienced racism in health care. More than 50 per cent of Indigenous health care workers reported experiencing racism on the job, mostly from their own colleagues.

The disturbing findings led investigator Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to call today for drastic changes in the beliefs, behaviours and structures of health care in the province and new accountability measures.

A startling 13 per cent of surveyed health-care workers of all races also made racist comments in their responses to the survey itself. Turpel-Lafond said that showed the degree of racism in the system and health-care workers’ comfort in expressing it.

The report noted racist acts not only harm a patient’s dignity but also reduce the quality of care of Indigenous patients and increase their likelihood of chronic illness, poor health outcomes and self-harm.

“At the point of care, there is direct prejudice and racism touching all points of care and impact Indigenous people in B.C.,” said the former provincial representative for children and youth, who is a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation.

“Any Indigenous person could face it because it is pervasive and entrenched in the system.”

The independent probe was commissioned by Health Minister Adrian Dix in June after allegations of racist games in emergency rooms, alleging health-care workers were guessing the blood alcohol contents of Indigenous patients in the style of “The Price Is Right.”

Turpel-Lafond said her investigation “found no evidence of an organized game as originally depicted,” but its results were much more alarming.

Harmful stereotypes that Indigenous people drink alcohol in excess, are drug-seeking, less worthy, poor parents, get things for free, or that Indigenous women are sexually promiscuous or involved in the sex trade permeated the comments from patients and health-care workers alike.

Those surveyed reported experiencing and witnessing everything from outright denial of care to physical or emotional abuse to medical mistakes because concerns were not heard or respected.

“Often these kinds of stereotypes lead to poor care and services,” said Turpel-Lafond. “These actions begin a cycle of poorer outcomes.”

The investigation’s analysis of patient data on 185,000 Indigenous people found they go to emergency rooms at nearly twice the rate of non-Indigenous peoples, due to poor access to primary care services or because they avoid care due to past traumatic experiences.

Hospitalization rates are three times higher for Indigenous peoples with preventable conditions and Indigenous women are 11 times more likely to leave the hospital against medical advice than non-Indigenous patients due to mistreatment and concerns for their safety.

Sexism and misogyny directed at Indigenous women and Two-Spirit people means they are more severely impacted by racism in health care and half as likely to feel safe in health-care settings as Indigenous men. They are more likely to be in poor health, the report found.

The impacts of the current pandemic and overdose crises in B.C. disproportionately harm Indigenous women, Turpel-Lafond said.

Turpel-Lafond said the rampant problems stem from a lack of accountability and respect and protection for patients and health-care workers who blow the whistle on racism.

She wants to see commitments to improving access to care and increasing Indigenous-led services that include cultural healing and traditional practices.

And the responsibility to bring change must rest on the health-care sector and government, not Indigenous peoples.

“Racism isn’t an Indigenous person’s problem,” said Turpel-Lafond.

In her 24 recommendations, Turpel-Lafond says changing systems, beliefs and behaviours is required to address these problems.

She wants to see whistleblower protection legislation extended to health-care workers, and new senior positions in government working specifically on anti-racism in health care. Anti-racism policies should be required in all colleges, regulatory bodies and post-secondary training institutions for health-care providers and leaders, she said.

Dix offered an apology to all Indigenous people who experienced racism when seeking care and vowed to formulate a cross-government plan to implement the recommendations rooted “in anti-racism and cultural humility.”

“My apology today is an acknowledgement of the pain that Indigenous people have borne from racism,” he said today. “Racism will have no place here.”

The province has already directed each health authority to hire five new Indigenous health liaisons and has seconded Dawn Thomas, a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and a vice-president of Island Health, to serve as associate deputy minister of Indigenous health in Dix’s portfolio.

Turpel-Lafond thanked the people who came forward to tell their stories and urged Indigenous peoples to seek care for themselves and support one another in light of the disturbing report.

“It’s up to Indigenous people whether they can accept that apology today,” she said. “And today is a very important beginning, so I do feel comfort in that.”  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free.

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities

Do:

  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

Do You Think the Injunction at Fairy Creek Will Be Reinstated?

Take this week's poll