Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a press conference during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says provinces have to do more work to address racism in the health-care system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a press conference during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says provinces have to do more work to address racism in the health-care system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

VIDEO: Provinces need to address racism in the health-care system, Trudeau says

Minister Miller said feds can use financial leverage over health care to fight anti-Indigenous racism

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed confidence that provinces will join efforts to fight racism in the health-care system, adding he does not want to jump to any conclusions about how the federal government could make sure that happens.

“Right across country, all premiers have condemned racism,” Trudeau said Friday at a news conference in Ottawa.

“There’s still more work to do, obviously, but we are confident that we’re going to be able to make significant improvements in the health care accessed by Indigenous Peoples,” he said.

The issue of anti-Indigenous racism in health care gained new attention from outrage over the treatment of Joyce Echaquan, who used her phone to livestream hospital staff using racist slurs against her as she lay dying in a Joliette, Que., hospital last month.

On Thursday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said the federal government is ready to use its financial leverage over the health system to fight anti-Indigenous racism there. The provinces are seeking billions more dollars health transfers from Ottawa and Miller suggested adding more money to a health-care system grappling with systemic racism should not be the only solution.

On Friday, Miller said provinces are eager to address systemic racism in the health-care system and “it would be careless to suggest” Ottawa would hold back federal health transfers from the provinces and territories during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But what we need to do is ensure that when federal money is invested according to its constitutional power, it is done in a fashion that reflects our values and our moral and legal duty to serve Indigenous Peoples and to ensure that they have first-class health care in the best country in the world.”

Miller, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett met virtually with about 400 people Friday, including Indigenous leaders and health-care professionals, to discuss experiences of racism and solutions.

Miller said they will reconvene, with an action plan, in January.

Rebecca Kudloo, the president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, said the meeting was a good start.

“The barriers to good health care is a problem,” Kudloo said in an interview. “The lack of cultural training for health service providers is a problem. We’re sometimes treated like we don’t have feelings.”

Kudloo lives in Baker Lake, Nunavut, where there is only a health centre staffed with nurse practitioners most of the time. People in her community often need to travel to Winnipeg or Iqaluit to get medical services.

“A lot of times, diagnosis is delayed,” she said.

“If you’re pregnant, you go down usually a month before your due date, leaving your other family and your other kids behind.”

Kudloo said that the government is offering Indigenous people encouraging words but little concrete action.

Bennett said the meeting should remind all institutions that transformative action is expected of them. She said that there is a need for better education, data, surveillance and accountability to stop bad attitudes in the health-care system.

Hajdu said racism is not an accident.

“The system is not broken. It’s created this way,” she said. “The systems and the people in them are incentivized to stay the same.”

READ MORE: Joyce Echaquan’s death highlights systemic racism in health care, experts say

She also suggested the federal government can use its financial leverage as positive reinforcement too.

“When we think about health transfers, often they’re thought of in a punitive fashion, but I think we also have to have the promotion of systemic change as well as the punishment of bad behaviour,” she told a news conference Friday.

Echaquan’s husband Carol Dubé also spoke during the meeting.

“We heard the emotional testimony of a family still living through the shock,” Miller said.

“We wanted to listen to these people.”

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

HealthcareRacial injusticeracism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The last forum before the election on Saturday focused on health care.
Boundary-Similkameen candidates talk health care over digital forum

The Support Our Health Care Society hosted the forum

The riding of Boundary-Similkameen has been held by the B.C. Liberals since 2009. (File image)
Past elections showed Liberal support in Boundary-Similkameen

Since 2009, riding has been represented by Liberal MLAs

Greenwood’s Volunteer Fire Department attended a vehicle accident on Highway 3 Friday morning, Oct. 23. Photo courtesy of Mayor Barry Noll.
BREAKING — 3 accidents on Highway 3, 33 in Greenwood, Rock Creek

“The roads are absolutely horrible right now,” Midway RCMP

CEO Wendy Higashi said the mistake was the first miscount after a Greenwood election. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Province given wrong vote count after Greenwood byelection

Miscount first in city’s history, according to Chief Election Officer

Midway RCMP confirmed thieves broke in to South Gold Storage in Greenwood Saturday, Oct. 10. File photo
Midway RCMP looking into burglary at Greenwood storage facility

Police have recovered a stolen bicycle, but a four-wheel utility vehicle is still missing

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

BC Liberals Leader Andrew Wilkinson, BC Greens Sonia Furstenau, BC NDP John Horgan (The Canadian Press photos)
British Columbians vote in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

At dissolution, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats in the legislature, while the Greens held two seats

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read