Island Health announced this week that soon, all patients at health care facilities across the island will be able to self-identify as Indigenous.
For some Indigenous folks, it is difficult to claim their status due to the numerous efforts by government bodies through the years to assimilate First Nations Peoples with colonial ways of life.
In an effort to allow those who have lost their official government Indian Status access to programs meant for Indigenous British Columbians, Island Health is allowing people the ability to voluntarily identify their heritage.
This has been dubbed the ‘Indigenous-self identification program’ (ISI) by Island Health.
“The information provided to us will better help our staff connect Indigenous patients with Indigenous-specific services available at their care site, such as an Indigenous Liaison Nurse or Indigenous Patient Navigator,” said Leah Hollins, Island Health Board Chair.
“If a patient has Indigenous ancestry, they can self-identify and choosing to do so is completely voluntary. The information collected will be used for the sole purpose of providing the best possible care for our Indigenous patients.”
Going forward, patients will be asked if they wish to self-identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit. If they do, they will not be restricted from accessing what they need within Island Health’s various programs.
The patient’s self-identification will also be saved in their medical record and they will never be asked to prove their ancestry again.
This information will be completely confidential and protected by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The ISI program will first launch at Saanich Peninsula Hospital on Wednesday, November 15th.
From there, regional rollout is expected to begin in spring of next year.