Island Health pledges to root out anti-Indigenous racism
VICTORIA -- On Tuesday, Kathy MacNeil, Island Health’s CEO, reacted to a damning report about widespread racism in B.C.’s health care system.
"To all Indigenous peoples, we apologize and I apologize for our actions and our inactions," MacNeil told reporters during a Zoom conference call. "We have not lived up to our values of respect."
MacNeil was responding to a report issued Monday from independent reviewer and retired judge and children’s advocate, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
In her report, Turpel-Lafond set out her findings of "widespread" anti-Indigenous racism in B.C.'s healthcare system, including in Vancouver Island hospitals.
"That's why it's so important for us to relentlessly work on the anti-Indigenous racism initiatives that are underway," noted MacNeil.
That work has included cultural safety and sensitivity training, which was implemented in island hospitals after allegations of a racist game involving hospital staff guessing the blood alcohol levels of indigenous patients surfaced in B.C.
Turpel-Lafond's report didn’t find evidence to support the presence of that exact game, but did find racism throughout the system.
Her report also highlighted the treatment of Cpl. Connor Sutton, a 23-year-old man who is a member of the T’sou-ke First Nation on southern Vancouver Island.
His experience sparked a peaceful protest this July after he ended up in the psychiatric ward at Royal Jubilee Hospital, after seeking help at Cowichan District Hospital for an esophagus injury and being told to go to a homeless shelter.
Island Health said Tuesday that a review of Sutton’s case is pending.
"To be accountable to him and his family and to improve our system so that that doesn’t happen again." acknowledged MacNeil.
Tsartlip First Nation Chief Don Tom said Tuesday that since the summer, he thinks positive steps have been taken by Island Health to bring change to Vancouver Island and begin the process of eliminating racism in its hospitals.
"When you’re treated with dignity and respect it certainly goes a long way," Tom said.