Saturday, July 20, 2024

‘The situation cannot stand’: report highlights anti-indigenous racism in B.C. healthcare


A comprehensive data report released on Thursday shows extensive evidence of discrimination and racism towards Indigenous people in B.C.’s health care system, the province says.

The report’s author, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, says the review shows a system that fails to provide Indigenous peoples with sufficient and safe access to primary and preventative care.

This leads to Indigenous people being pushed towards emergency and specialized treatment, preventing them from accessing physician services or other primary care practitioners.

“When you combine these factors with the overwhelming evidence of racism in the health-care system – which we explored in depth in our previous reports – it’s not difficult to see why health outcomes for Indigenous peoples are poorer,” said Turpel-Lafond in a statement.

“New initiatives are positive attempts to fill this void, like the First Nations Health Authority’s (FNHA) ‘Virtual Doctor of the Day,’ however, a full continuum of care and networks of First Nations-led primary care are needed to overcome the serious deficiencies we found for Indigenous peoples.”

The data report release on Thursday follows up on the initial “In Plain Sight” report from November that Turpel-Lafond was commissioned to conduct in June 2020.

In June, the province was rocked by a scandal where health care staff were accused of playing a racist “guessing game” where they would speculate on the blood alcohol level of Indigenous patients.

Turpel-Lafond’s initial November report uncovered systemic racism in B.C.’s health care system and called for the creation of a B.C. Indigenous health officer along with two other key positions to help address these issues.

The report made 24 recommendations to eliminate Indigenous-specific racism and to help make B.C.’s health care system safer.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the government would be acting on these recommendations and work is underway on establishing the office of the Indigenous Health Officer.

“The situation as it exists, and as is depicted in the details of this report, cannot stand,” Dix said in a statement.

“Together with Indigenous leadership, health professionals, colleagues and partners, we will address systemic racism in our health-care system and root out its deeply damaging effects.”

The new data report also breaks down results by health region, representing the perspectives of nearly 9,000 people across the province.

In the Vancouver Island health region, infant mortality among Indigenous patients saw a high rate of 9.0 per 1,000 births, compared to just 2.1 per 1,000 births in Interior Health.

The report says that a lack of supports and services is a contributing factor in excess postneonatal deaths.

“This data report is extremely important in its own right,” Turpel-Lafond said.

“In addition to supplementing our previous reports, it serves as a stand-alone comment on health-system performance for Indigenous peoples in B.C. And it shows there is a great deal of room for improvement.”

The full data report is available online through

Indigenous people wanting to share their experiences of racism and discrimination in the B.C. health-care system may still do so by toll-free phone at 1 888 600-3078 or email at:

Tim Ford
Tim Ford
Digital staff writer with Victoria Buzz

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