Anti-racism hotline, website launched after allegations of 'racist game' in B.C. emergency rooms
VICTORIA -- A new and confidential anti-racism hotline, website and survey are being launched to help address anti-Indigenous racism in B.C.’s health-care system.
The new anti-racism measures are being introduced after an independent investigation was announced following allegations of a “racist game” taking place in at least one hospital ER in the province.
The “racist game” involved staff at the hospital emergency room allegedly trying to guess the blood-alcohol level of Indigenous patients that arrived.
Independent investigator Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond announced the new measures Thursday, saying that the information collected through the hotline and website would be used to help address racism in the province.
Anyone who would like to share their experience or knowledge of racist incidents in B.C.’s health-care system can visit Turpel-Lafond's website here, or contact 1-888-600-3078 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Turpel-Lafond says Health Minister Adrian Dix has promised to implement any recommendations that come from her review.
“I have to say today that this investigation is not trying to determine whether racism exists in B.C.’s health-care system. It does exist, just as it does in every aspect of Canadian society,” said Turpel-Lafond.
Turpel-Lafond says that the investigation will try to gauge how the racism affects the health-care provided to Indigenous people in B.C., and how it can be addressed moving forward.
At the same time, Turpel-Lafond says her investigation will “get to the bottom” of the allegations that first prompted the investigation.
The investigator says that if her review does uncover offences under Canada’s Criminal Code or that violate B.C. health profession regulations, she will pass the information on to relevant authorities, who have promised to act on her findings.
Turpel-Lafond says that anyone who brings forth information on racist incidents, whether they be Indigenous people or health-care workers, will be protected.
She stresses that health-care workers will “face no recrimination in your workplace” for coming forward.
Turpel-Lafond says that lack of engagement within the health-care system may be one of the largest obstacles to her investigation.
“I would be very disappointed if at the end of this process I had no engagement with physicians,” she said.
‘Inferior treatment’ for Indigenous people
While the investigation is in its early stages, Turpel-Lafond says that one of her main concerns is that Indigenous people in B.C. are avoiding medical treatment due to concerns over systemic racism.
The investigator says that anti-Indigenous racism has led to “inferior treatment” in hospitals, with many Indigenous people saying that their health concerns are minimized by health-care workers.
“Health needs are first being based on the lens of, ‘Are you addicted?’” said Turpel-Lafond
She added that some health-care workers may be “minimizing complaints based on allegations of addiction.”
Turpel-Lafond says she urges Indigenous people in B.C. to fill out the survey or reach out to her team so that they can collect a “comprehensive review” of how systemic racism has affected First Nations people in the health-care system.
She also encourages all Indigenous people to attend health-care facilities if they have medical needs, even if they are concerned over potentially racist treatment.
“The last thing we want to do is discourage people from using the health-care system,” she said.
“Do not hesitate to seek and get the medical help you need if you are an Indigenous person in British Columbia.”
Building a better system
Turpel-Lafond says that much of her investigation is also focused on building a better system, and not assigning blame.
“I will not be naming and shaming,” she said.
Turpel-Lafond says the investigation aims to collect an accurate representation of the health-care system to see where flaws can be fixed.
“(Blaming) is not a healing process, that’s not a truth telling process,” she said.
“Our investigation will no doubt uncover some difficult truths but ultimately it’s about building up confidence in Indigenous people in B.C.’s health-care system,”