After an announcement about allegations of emergency room staff playing a racist “guessing game” on Friday, Métis Nation B.C. came out with a statement addressing a broader issue.

According to information obtained by Métis Nation BC and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, First Nations, Métis and Inuit patients in need of emergency services are regularly assumed to be drunk and therefore denied medical assessment by health care workers in the province.

Thousands of Indigenous people seeking medical care face racism of this nature on a regular basis, based on findings from participants of the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training program.

“There remains a lack of will to address systemic and specific racism towards Métis, First Nation and Inuit people,” says Leslie Varley, Executive Director of the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC),

“We know that our people avoid hospitals because we are afraid of having a discriminatory encounter. This happens to the point where Indigenous people end up in emergency with extreme diagnosis, like cancer.”

Earlier on Friday, health minister Adrian Dix announced that he has hired lawyer Mary-Ellen Turpel Lafond to investigate reports that health care workers have been playing a game to guess the blood alcohol level of patients in the emergency room, in particular of Indigenous patients.

Métis Nation BC says these allegations were brought to light by a participant of the San’yas program—an anti-racism training program that has been made mandatory for public servants in Ontario but not in B.C.

Indigenous leaders now say British Columbia is inconsistent in their requirements for anti-racism training, and call upon the province to accept four recommendations:

  • Launch a public inquiry into Indigenous specific racism in health care in B.C with a focus on hospitals and emergency departments.
  • Ensure that all front-line staff are required to take mandatory First Nations, Métis and Inuit training that results in increased health professional personal accountability in the delivery of safe health care.
  • Commit to structural and systemic changes to dismantle Indigenous specific racism to ensure culturally safe health care experiences for Indigenous people.
  • Ensure that Indigenous governments play a stronger role in the development and implementation of anti-racism programs and training throughout BC.

The statement argues that acceptance of these recommendations would be the proper way to acknowledge National Indigenous People’s Day on June 21.