THUNDER BAY, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler says a firm commitment to action is needed following today’s virtual meeting between Indigenous leaders and federal and provincial Ministers on racism in Canada’s health care system.
“This meeting was held in response to an egregious example of the failure of the health care system, tragically resulting in the death of Joyce Echaquan. Joyce’s husband shared a heartbreaking plea to find ‘Justice for Joyce’ and we will stand with him,” said Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “The experiences shared by Indigenous leaders, health care professionals and grieving families painted a tragic picture. If Canada, the provinces and territories are serious about change they must support our right to health self-determination, recognize and respect a framework that addresses the health disparities for Indigenous Peoples, and commit to an urgent plan for implementation.”
A scathing 2015 report by the Auditor General revealed Canada’s racist, two-tiered health system. It showed how the perception in Ottawa is far from the reality of what happens at the community level in remote First Nations, and documented the continued failure by Health Canada to address the health care needs of First Nation communities, which has severely marginalized their health.
Similarly, the 2019 Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls found, “persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses” as the roots of genocide against Indigenous women and girls in this country.
“First Nations have always experienced a two-tiered health care system – one for Indians, and one for everyone else. The Indian system is such an atrocity that many of our people were once used as guinea pigs for medical experimentation. The system was built this way, and the effects are still felt today. It has always been racist, and racism kills – that’s the bottom line,” said Fiddler. “We look forward to participating in a follow-up meeting in January 2021, but there is a lot of work to be done before then.”
‘Racism in the Canadian Health Care system can be fatal,’ begins a 2016 report by the Indigenous Health Working Group of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada. It highlights how systemic racism has been identified as a major barrier to positive relationships and care between physicians and Indigenous patients.