WINNIPEG – Federal ministers held an emergency meeting with Indigenous leaders and health professionals in light of recent complaints of racism against Indigenous people seeking care in Canada.
The issue of anti-Indigenous racism and health care gained new attention following outrage over the treatment of Joyce Echaquan, an Indigenous woman who used her phone to livestream hospital staff using racist slurs against her as she lay dying in a Quebec hospital last month.
Indigenous Services Minister Mark Miller said while long-term measures and new legislation are needed to fix the problem, some changes can be made right away.
“There’s some stuff that can be done immediately. People can be held accountable and a better sensitivity and training can be done,” he said.
Meantime, Health Minister Patty Hajdu says to fix the problem, Canadians need to realize that the racism experienced by many people is systemic.
“Racism is not an accident,” she said. “The system is not broken. It’s created this way.”
Hajdu added she would also like to start seeing solutions to the problem at a meeting that’s been scheduled for January.
“We are asking that provinces and territories, health-care providers, medical schools and all of our Indigenous partners come to a follow-up session in January with concrete plans for training, prevention, health-care data, wraparound services and accountability.”
When Hajdu left the meeting, she said she was hopeful that the health system can be changed.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said provinces must do more to address racism in the health care system as reconciliation with Indigenous people and ending racism are not things the federal government can do alone.