Melanie Chartres, Indigenous Support Teacher at Webster Elementary School, talks about Truth and Reconciliation with students.
Students pinned an orange ribbon onto the school’s Reflection Tree to the beat of 215 beats in memory of the number of graves found in Kamloops earlier this year.
Expert health team will drive action to confront systemic racism against Indigenous peoples
United in one voice, membership in the new In Plain Sight Task Team is now in place to help resolve Indigenous-specific racism in health care and make the system culturally safe for Indigenous peoples and all people in British Columbia.
The task team came out of the recommendations from the In Plain Sight report, where independent reviewer Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond found that Indigenous peoples in B.C. have inequitable access to all health-care services. The task team’s mandate is to drive the implementation of all report recommendations. Task team members gathered for the first time on May 12, 2021.
“We acknowledge that the harm to Indigenous people by our health system is known and has been perpetuated against Indigenous people for generations,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “The task team will support the Province as we fulfil our commitment to make the real, meaningful changes needed to ensure we address systemic racism in the health-care system and root out its toxic effects on people and communities.”
The members of the task team are Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who hold specific expertise in the B.C. health-care system, cultural safety and humility, and addressing Indigenous-specific racism. Task team members are appointed by the Ministry of Health in consultation with Indigenous health system partners.
“Racism has been able to hide…[but it] affects the health outcomes of many of our families,” said Chief Don Tom-Tsartlip First Nations, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) vice-president and task team member. “We have incredible work we need to do, to tackle and dismantle hierarchy, and bring our best selves to the table. I hope that 20 or 30 years from now, we can look back and say, ‘Do you remember there was a time when racism was affecting Indigenous peoples? And this is when it stopped.’”
Members expressed an aspiration to unite in one voice, reflective of the shared purpose of resolving Indigenous-specific systemic racism in health care, and ensure safer and more respectful experiences and better health outcomes for First Nations and the Métis and Inuit people who call these lands their home.
“Métis Nation BC’s cabinet and staff are pleased to be working with First Nations leadership and the Province of B.C. on the important work ahead of us at the task team table,” said task team member Paulette Flamond, MNBC Minister of Health. “Addressing racism and discrimination in B.C.’s health-care system starts with education and ensuring British Columbians providing care have the knowledge they need to ensure that First Nations, Métis and Inuit people experience care in a way that they determine is accessible, welcoming and culturally safe.”
The task team is being led in partnership under a three co-chair model, inclusive of a representative from the Métis Nation: Dr. Kate Elliott, Minister for Mental Health and Addictions, and Minister for Women and Gender Equity, Métis Nation British Columbia; First Nations representative Richard Jock, CEO, First Nations Health Authority; and government representative Dawn Thomas, associate deputy minister, Indigenous Health. The task team is also being guided and supported by respected Elders Bryce Mercredi and Roberta Price.
The development of the task team is the first step toward implementing Recommendation 24, with a focus to advocate for systemic change. The Ministry of Health is dedicated to supporting and working alongside the members of the task team to ensure a safer health system for all Indigenous peoples.
Recommendation 24 states that the B.C. government establish a task team to be in place for at least 24 months after the date of the report to propel and ensure the implementation of all recommendations, reporting to the Minister of Health and working with the deputy minister and the associate deputy minister for Indigenous Health, and at all times ensuring the standards of consultation and co-operation with Indigenous peoples are upheld, consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA).
This announcement is one of the first formal responses to In Plain Sight. Further actions so far include a news release by the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) on Recommendation 8 and a provincial cultural safety and humility standard has been developed in partnership with FNHA/HSO and is under public review.
Other actions included public apologies by all health authorities, as well as a formal apology by the British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives as a response to the In Plain Sight report. This was followed by the appointment of Dawn Thomas to the role of acting associate deputy minister, Indigenous Health. Future actions will include announcements on appointing Indigenous leaders to positions in the health system.
* The 2020 review by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s office into racism in health care examined health utilization and outcome data of approximately 185,000 First Nations and Métis patients.
* More than two-thirds of Indigenous respondents to the review͛ said they had experienced discrimination based on their ancestry.
* 16% reported never being discriminated against while accessing health care.
* More than one-third of non-Indigenous respondents to the Health Care Workers’ Survey reported having witnessed interpersonal racism or discrimination against Indigenous patients or their families and friends.
* Indigenous women are disproportionately affected by racism in health care and that racism contributes to Indigenous peoples being disproportionately affected by the current public health emergencies of COVID-19 and the overdose crisis.
Find the full report, In Plain Sight, here: In Plain Sight