Dying at the hands of racism: The Healthcare Crisis for Indigenous Peoples in Alberta

By Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

(ANNews) – The healthcare system in Alberta fails Indigenous peoples, perpetuating a cycle of suffering and premature death. Structural racism pervades every aspect of care, from access to treatment to the attitudes of healthcare professionals. Countless examples across the country demonstrate Canadians turning a blind eye to the plight of dying Indigenous people within the healthcare and mental health systems. Indigenous individuals frequently encounter poor experiences, lack follow-up care, and fear the healthcare system due to poor outcomes, amplifying the urgency for Canada to address the injustices faced by Indigenous communities.

Indigenous peoples in Alberta face significant barriers to accessing healthcare services, exacerbating health disparities. Geographical isolation, limited transportation options, and underfunded healthcare facilities on reserves present formidable obstacles to receiving timely and adequate care. Additionally, linguistic and cultural differences often lead to misunderstandings and mistrust between Indigenous patients and non-Indigenous healthcare providers.

Within healthcare facilities, Indigenous patients encounter overt and covert forms of racism that compromise the quality of care they receive. Numerous reports document instances of discrimination, stereotyping, and neglect by healthcare professionals. Indigenous individuals seeking treatment for various health concerns, including cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes, and mental health issues, are met with indifference or outright hostility. This systemic bias contributes to the worsening health outcomes and increased mortality rates among Indigenous populations.

The erosion of trust between Indigenous communities and the healthcare system is a dire consequence of persistent racism and mistreatment. Historical traumas, such as the legacy of residential schools and forced sterilizations, continue to shape Indigenous perceptions of healthcare institutions. Despite efforts to address cultural competency and sensitivity training, many Indigenous people remain skeptical of healthcare providers’ intentions and capabilities. This lack of trust further dissuades individuals from seeking essential medical care, leading to avoidable suffering and preventable deaths.

The crisis facing Indigenous peoples in Alberta demands immediate and comprehensive intervention. Reforms must prioritize Indigenous-led initiatives that center on cultural safety, community empowerment, and self-determination. This includes the establishment of on-reserve hospitals equipped to address the unique health needs of Indigenous populations. Additionally, healthcare professionals must undergo mandatory anti-racism training and commit to upholding principles of equity, dignity, and respect in their interactions with Indigenous patients.

The status quo is untenable. Indigenous peoples in Alberta cannot continue to suffer and die at the hands of a healthcare system plagued by racism and neglect. It is incumbent upon policymakers, healthcare leaders, and society as a whole to confront these injustices head-on and work collaboratively to build a healthcare system that honours the rights, dignity, and well-being of all Indigenous peoples. Anything less is an affront to justice and humanity.

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