By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – A recent progress report has found that despite some improvements, racism continues to affect Indigenous people in BC’s health care system.
In 2020, retired judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond wrote a report called In Plain Sight. It documented the experiences of Indigenous people accessing health-care in B.C.
This report found that 84% of Indigenous patients had experienced some type of racism in the provincial health care system.
In Plain Sight put forward 24 recommendations to the province that included improving accountability, legislative changes, and improving the complaint process.
In the most recent progress report, Turpel-Lafond said that 10 of the 24 recommendations have witnessed some progress — such as apologies from governing bodies and recruiting Indigenous leaders to aid health authorities in systemic change.
However, the progress report also states that “the fundamental issues remain in plain sight,” and that “little, if any” movement has happened with the recommendations.
While she acknowledges the pandemic’s effect on implementing the recommendations, Turpel-Lafond expected that more would be done by this point.
“I’m pleased with some of the progress I’ve seen … and at the same time I think there’s a lot to be done,” she said.
Turpel-Lafond has said that she has continuously received “disturbing complaints about racism occurring at the point of care, and about the ongoing inadequacy of complaints processes.”
“We have to create a culturally safe system, and what it means when you haven’t achieved that is the access to care, not just denial of service, but the fact that Indigenous people are not getting the health care that they need causes them to suffer with health conditions that are treatable,” she said.
“I’m not trying to be dramatic when I say racism kills people. Because they stay away from health care that they need because it’s been so offensive, unfriendly and discriminatory, and it can lead to an absolute crisis, including a shortened lifespan.”
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix agreed with Turpel-Lafond’s sentiment, “While B.C. has made important progress, there is more work to do.”
“Now is a time to build on what we have achieved working together to make the additional necessary changes needed to root out Indigenous-specific racism, stereotyping and discrimination in B.C.’s health-care system and ensure a culturally safe health-care system for Indigenous Peoples.”
Dix also added, “The province remains absolutely committed to implementing all 24 recommendations of ‘In Plain Sight,’ and we will continue to work together with Indigenous peoples, all orders of government, health-system partners, individuals, service providers, regulatory bodies and health-system leadership to make this commitment a reality.”
However, some Nations believe the province is taking too long.
The Metis Nation of B.C published a press release condemning the province for the delay in implementing the recommendations.
Dr. Kate Elliot of the Nation’s In Plain Sight Task Team, said, “It is a too frequent occurrence, that I hear from my patients their experiences of dealing with a system that treats them as ‘less than.”
“There is a moral imperative to act, this can no longer remain permissible. All Métis people in the province have the fundamental right to safe and equitable health care.”