This week, Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond released her report, In Plain Sight, which was commissioned by Hon. Adrian Dix to review Indigenous racism in BC’s health care system following allegations about racism experienced by Indigenous peoples in some BC emergency rooms in June 2020. The review examined data through an Indigenous Peoples’ Survey to collect the experiences of Indigenous people using the health care system, and a Health Workers’ Survey to examine experiences of health care workers regarding Indigenous-specific acts of racism in their work. There was also a website, email, and phone number for anyone to share their experiences. Dr. Turpel-Lafond interviewed First Nations and Métis leaders and health advocates as well as healthcare leaders. In total, the review examined the experiences of almost 9,000 people and 185,000 pieces of health sector data.
The full report details the stories and experiences of extensive racism which are extremely upsetting to read. Tying together the countless stories of racism were five key findings: (1) extensive Indigenous-specific racism in BC healthcare; (2) racism limits Indigenous people’s access to medical care which further compounds their health and wellness; (3) Indigenous women and girls are disproportionately impacted by such racism; (4) current public health emergencies, such as COVID-19 and the overdose crisis, disproportionately impact Indigenous peoples; and (5) racism is also experienced by Indigenous health care workers. The review also found that although there are well-intentioned efforts to address and stop these acts of Indigenous-specific racism, those efforts have not translated into real and sustainable change.
A total of 24 recommendations were made by the review team. Importantly, the first one asked that the BC government apologize for Indigenous specific racism, and that apology came on November 30 by BC’s Health Minister, Adrian Dix which you can read about here.
I, our teams, and our leadership at the Women’s Health Research Institute unequivocally denounce Indigenous-specific racism, and racism in all of its forms to all people. We will be giving deliberate attention to how we can enact the recommendations of In Plain Sight. Our actions must include respectful planning and partnership with Indigenous peoples.
To all of our members, staff, and trainees in the WHRI, I urge you to take the time to read the full report here and a summary of the recommendations here. It is time for us to think deeply about our own participation in and witnessing of such acts of racism in the context of our research, and to take action to eliminate it.
Lori A Brotto PhD, R Psych
Executive Director, WHRI
Professor | Department of OBGYN, UBC
Canada Research Chair | Women’s Sexual Health