Health (18-24): Current Problems

Systemic Racism

November 2, 2022

Fed. Govt., MB

‘Pandemic of suffering:’ Manitoba chiefs press governments to fund regional hospital

Toronto Star: Chiefs of four remote First Nations in northeastern Manitoba are calling for the provincial and federal governments to build a health facility that can treat ongoing mental health and addiction crises for their growing populations.

The chiefs from the Island Lake region estimate 15,000 to 18,000 people live in the area, but none of the four communities has a hospital to address these issues. 

Grand Chief Scott Harper with the area tribal council or Anishininew Okimawin said it’s the duty of the federal government to provide substantive and equal health care and social services to First Nations comparable to what is provided in non-Indigenous communities across the country.

“An urgent strategy is needed to address colonizational, intergenerational traumatic effects combined with decades of insufficient resources and funding, which has created a pandemic of suffering,” he said Wednesday. 

The area is home to Red Sucker Lake, St. Theresa Point, Wasagamack and Garden Hill First Nations. The communities are only accessible by winter road or air, with the exception of Wasagamack, which doesn’t have an airport. 

The nations have nursing stations, but the chiefs said they provide limited treatment options and are severely understaffed.  Chief Charles Knott said in his community of Garden Hill, there are four nurses to care for roughly 5,000 people. 

People have to be transported to Winnipeg for medical procedures. In some cases, this is done by medevac and puts individuals at risk. “We have lost community members from moving them too much to try and take them to the airport … it is a struggle,” said Knott.

Proposals for the construction of a hospital have been submitted to Ottawa in the past, the chiefs said. They did not say why they were rejected. “We have been negotiating with Canada for decades to fund our hospital and related facilities while our members keep dying from preventable deaths,” said Harper. 

Indigenous Services Canada provides nurses and funding for community-based health programs, as well as transportation to Winnipeg for insured services. The department said it continues to support the Four Arrows Regional Health Authority, which provides services to the Island Lake communities, initseffort to expand provincially insured health services. 

“We recognize there is more work to do in order to close the gap in access to quality health care between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” said Randy Legault-Rankin, a spokesperson for the department. 

Elvin Flett, chief of St. Theresa Point, said any other community in the country with the population of Island Lake would have a fully operational hospital.  “There are communities that have less population than we do and they have access right in their own community to primary health-care services,” Flett said. “Why are the governments ignoring the cry for help from the four First Nations of Island Lake when we say we need the hospital?”

Leaders are also renewing calls for a regional addictions treatment centre, as well as supports for land-based and mental health programming. 

Families from the area walked to Parliament Hill in 2018 to press Canada on the need for a rehab centre for a growing methamphetamine addiction in the communities. Chief Sam Knott of Red Sucker Lake First Nation said his community has seen the toll addictions and mental health issues have had on members in recent weeks. 

The nation called a state of emergency last month after two people died by suicide and more than a dozen others attempted to kill themselves. 

Officials from Indigenous Services Canada met with the community last month and will continue to provide supports, said Legault-Rankin. 

The community recently held a funeral for a youth who died by suicide. It shut down the school to allow teachers and students to mourn.  “We need a substantial amount of support on the ground, especially counselling,” said Chief Sam Knott. 

The department plans to increase its counselling services in the community by sending a therapist to Red Sucker Lake for a total of 10 days this month up from eight, it said in a statement.

Sarah Guillemard, Manitoba’s minister for mental health, said Wednesday the province is willing to work with the federal government to come up with long-term solutions. “We’re happy to join the federal government in those discussions to look at ways that we can help support the communities, especially in the rural and northern regions where these struggles really are taking hold,” she said. 

Funding from the province’s 2022 budget is set to go toward a new health-care hub to service the north, a government spokesperson said in a statement. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2022.

September 26, 2022


‘We are truly sorry’: Leaders, health officials acknowledge Indigenous-specific racism in northern Manitoba’s health-care system

CTV News: Indigenous leaders and northern health officials in Manitoba say Indigenous people continue to face racism in the health-care system, and have signed a declaration committing to eliminate it.

On Monday morning leaders from Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin (KIM), and the Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA), met in Thompson to sign the declaration.

“Let me begin by acknowledging Indigenous-specific racism has existed and continues to be present within the Northern Health Region. On behalf of our staff, I offer a humble heartfelt apology. We are truly sorry for the harm this has caused,” said Helga Bryant, the CEO of the NRHA. “We know we all have much to learn, and in many cases to unlearn, as we embark on this journey together.”

The declaration says the three groups acknowledge racism against Indigenous peoples in Canada exists and stems from colonization, and says this leads to a loss of trust in health systems, reduced use of services, and ultimately to poorer health outcomes for Indigenous people.

It is something Pimicikamak Cree Nation Chief David Monias said he has seen within his community. “Our people are dying from things that can be prevented,” he said, adding in his first term as chief, there were 55 deaths in his community – two by suicide, four by natural causes, and the rest he said died from lack of health services.

“That’s got to stop – it has to.” He said. “We can’t live like that. Racism has to end.”

Bernice Thorassie is a client navigator with MKO and helps people access proper health-care. She said in the last year she had received 1,400 calls as of June. She shared stories of patients who came to MKO for advocacy, narrowly avoiding unnecessary amputations, or ensuring proper care is being given to their newborn babies.

She called on those working in health-care roles to learn more about the Indigenous people.”When people learn more about who we are and the extreme challenges we have lived through, you will better understand and empathize with us,” she said. “We can work together to end racism and build a safe health-care system for our children and our grandchildren.”

Manitoba’s Health Minister Audrey Gordon, who was among the officials at the signing Monday morning, said she believes the things learned in the Northern health region can be applied across the province.

“Today is not the end, there is much more work to do. We will continue to work with each other,” she said. “We want to listen and learn from Indigenous leadership in communities to acknowledge that racism exists, it does, and that changes are needed to bring about reform in our provincial health-care systems.”

As a part of the declaration, the three groups have committed to identifying and eliminating Indigenous-specific racism and will be conducting bi-annual reviews to ensure progress and accountability within the Northern Regional Health Authority.

Dr. Barry Lavallee, from KIM, said the first report is expected in six months. “The experiences of people coming into the health-care system need to be monitored as kind of a first line,” he said. “We are going to be looking at processes including developing databases that describe Indigenous patients versus non-Indigenous patients.”

He said an example of this would be monitoring whether an Indigenous child with severe asthma is offered steroids or not, compared to a non-Indigenous child.

You can read the full declaration here:

Three Partners Commit to Eliminating All Forms of Indigenous-Specific Racism in Healthcare in Northern Manitoba

February 3, 2022


“Remembering Keegan – a BC First Nations Case Study Reflection”

Feb. 23, 2022: First Nations Health Authority – FNHA today announced the public release of its report titled “Remembering Keegan – a BC First Nations Case Study Reflection”. Keegan Combes was a 29-year old First Nations man who died in hospital in 2015 following delayed diagnosis and clinical management of a treatable accidental poisoning.

Remembering K​eegan” is part of ongoing anti-Indigenous racism actions in BC’s health care system that includes a number of other reports, reviews, recommendations and the formation of a provincial task team. It is also a tool meant to inform and guide the pursuit of definitive change and to support the establishment of a cultural safety standard within the health care system.

First Nations have a deeply rooted culture and tradition of storytelling as one of the ways of passing on knowledge. Storytelling is a traditional method used to teach about cultural beliefs, values, customs, rituals, history, practices, relationships, and ways of life. 

First Nations storytelling is a foundation for wholistic learning, relationship building and experiential learning. This Case Study Reflection is a narrative tool for health professionals to learn from and to reflect on the personal and systemic biases that shape their practice, and to encourage conversations leading to safer health care environments and experiences for First Nations and Indigenous people, so that what happened to Keegan never happens to others.

A first of its kind report produced by the FNHA, Remembering Keegan provides an in-depth look at the different paths that could have led to culturally safe care, offers clear examples of what Cultural Safety and Humility should look like, and how it could have contr​ibuted to a different outcome. The report also explores intersectionality, the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, abilities and gender, encountered by BC’s frontline healthcare workers in the care of their patients.

Loved and remembered by many, Keegan Combes was a local chess champion, grade ten piano player, and high-school graduate living with developmental disabilities.

In the aftermath of the incidents leading to his death, Keegan’s family, the BC Coroners Service, Fraser Health, and the FNHA committed to working together on building a better health care system to deliver culturally safe and equitable services to all Indigenous people in the Fraser Salish region. A plaque and artwork in Keegan’s honour were unveiled at the hospital during a ceremony on the fourth anniversary of his passing. You will find the Healing Hands of Friendship Commemorative plaque outside of the Chilliwack General Hospital affirming this first ste of commitment.

Keegan brought together Stó:lō and Coast Salish leaders to transform the health system from a sickness model to a wellness model of care. He is a transformer stone for the region. Telling Keegan’s story is important as a way to bear witness, document culturally unsafe encounters within the health care system, and contribute to changing the system to prevent similar deaths or harm in the future. Keegan’s legacy has been to help shape the Cultural Safety and Humility transformation that is currently underway in BC’s health system.

November 7, 2022


AMC Calls on Manitoba to Allocate More Money to Healthcare After CIHI States Manitoba Has the Third Lowest Healthcare Spending Per Person in the Country

NationTalk: Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) issued the following statement in response to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) projections that Manitoba will have the third lowest healthcare spending per person in the Country.

Manitoba Health has chronically underfunded First Nations in Manitoba, especially those living in northern and remote locations of the province. Chronic underfunding and recent budget cuts in healthcare put fiscal constraints above the needs and rights of First Nations citizens. First Nations in Manitoba are continually told that there is no funding for sovereign health initiatives and are getting denied for First Nations treatment centers and hospitals. Meanwhile, the government is projecting saving more than other provinces in their healthcare budget. This strategy further compounds First Nations’ lack of accessible health care and human resource issues, such as retaining nurses and doctors that will create additional barriers to treatment and prevention for those already at risk.

“This projection from CIHI is troubling as Manitoba has the highest population of First Nations citizens in Canada,” Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said. “Due to the ongoing cumulative damage done from colonization, First Nations have the highest rates of premature morbidity and mortality. The province and federal government continually claim to be doing all they can to provide health care services to remote and northern First Nations, yet this proves that Manitoba can do more.”

For more information, please contact:
Communications Team
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

November 22, 2018

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Call for national investigation into forced sterilizations

Senator Murray Sinclair, former Chair of the TRC, says Canada needs a national investigation to find out how common coerced sterilizations are among Indigenous women and how they’ve been allowed to continue for so long.

October 12, 2022

Fed. Govt., MB

Call for Restructuring Medical Transportation System After Delayed Medical Response for First Nation Infant

NationTalk: Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and the Assembly of First Nations Manitoba (AFN) issued the following statement after an infant was not given prompt transportation from Pimicikamak Cree Nation to Winnipeg for emergency care. The ill infant waited 24 hours after triage at the nursing station because Medevac rerouted two airplanes before finally clearing a third to bring the family to Winnipeg.

“The AMC has identified this need to redesign and restructure the medical transport system for remote First Nations for decades,” said AMC Deputy Grand Chief Cornell McLean. “The non-insured health benefits (NIHB) funded by Indigenous Service Canada is wrought with institutional and systemic racism against First Nations that allows for tragic incidents to occur too often. It’s been less than two weeks since the leaders in the north signed the Declaration to Eliminate All Forms of Indigenous-Specific Racism and one week since the nation came together to support the #EveryChildMatters sentiment. This news is very disheartening.”

Currently, AMC and AFN are advocating for First Nations to exercise their right to sovereignty and self-government of health care. “There have been issues with staffing and maintaining safe and accessible health care resources in First Nations communities for years,” said AFN Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse. “Indigenous Services Canada has been aware of the impending crisis that is now upon our citizens and has sat idle without providing solutions or interventions. It is through this systemic racism that our children continue to suffer, and generational victimization continues, as seen with the medical care, or lack of it, that this baby and their family have experienced. Despite implementing Jordan’s Principle, the westernized health care system fails to provide timely and proficient care to our future generations.”

“Our people are dying from things that can be prevented,” said Chief David Monias of Pimicilamak at the Declaration to Eliminate All Forms of Indigenous-Specific Racism event hosted by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) in Thompson, Manitoba on September 26, 2022. He said during his first term as Chief, there have been 55 deaths in his community – two by suicide, four by natural causes, and the rest from lack of health services. “We support Chief David Monias of Pimicikamak Cree Nation in calling for further systemic change to ensure the safety and longevity of all First Nation citizens,” Deputy Grand Chief Cornell McLean said. “The delay in delivering the urgently required medical care for this infant demonstrates a serious flaw in accessibility to basic health care for northern First Nations in Manitoba. We pray for a fast recovery for the child and send prayers to the family and the leaders in Pimicikamak Cree Nation as they navigate this recurring health care crisis.”

July 22, 2022

Fed. Govt.

CMA condemns forced and coerced sterilization

In response to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights’ report The Scars that We Carry: Forced and Coerced Sterilization of Persons in Canada – Part II Opens in a new window, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) unequivocally denounces the practices of forced and coerced sterilization.

As the report details, forced and coerced sterilization have a long history in Canada. Laws and government policies rooted in racism and discrimination sought to reduce births in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, Black communities, and among people with intersecting vulnerabilities relating to social and structural determinants of health, ethnicity and disability. These practices have had a disproportionate impact on equity-relevant groups and those experiencing structural vulnerabilities in Canada. The medical profession must acknowledge its role and commit to upholding its ethical obligations.

The act of sterilization without informed and uncoerced patient consent is an absolute violation of fundamental tenets of medical ethics and the medical profession’s fundamental commitment to respect for persons, as articulated by the CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism. The CMA supports the Senate committee’s recommendations to prohibit these practices and enhance training and regulation of medical professionals to halt these practices in the future.

Dr. Katharine Smart
CMA President

The Scars that We Carry: Forced and Coerced Sterilization of Persons in Canada – Part II

Survivors of forced and coerced sterilization deserve government apology, compensation: Senate committee

Ottawa – The federal government should compensate and apologize to all people who were subjected to forced and coerced sterilization, the Senate Committee on Human Rights said in a report released Thursday, July 14, 2022.

The report, The scars that we carry: Forced and Coerced Sterilization of Persons in Canada – Part II, outlines the committee’s findings from the second part of its study into this deeply disturbing practice, which persists today and disproportionately affects vulnerable and marginalized groups in Canada, including Indigenous women, Black and racialized women, and people with disabilities.

Survivors described how they were stripped of their ability to conceive without their free, prior and informed consent at moments of extreme vulnerability. Some were as young as 14 and coerced through confinement, manipulation or threats; others were simply not consulted before the procedure. Many survivors attributed their sterilization to racism in Canada’s health-care system.

The report includes 11 other recommendations aimed at ending forced and coerced sterilization in Canada, including a specific Criminal Code prohibition, increased investments in community-based midwifery in northern and remote communities, and a national plan to collect and publish anonymized data on forced and coerced sterilization.

The committee extends its heartfelt gratitude to the survivors who testified. The absence of data on forced and coerced sterilization placed a heavy burden on them to come forward and share their personal stories and lived experiences; their brave decision to do so was integral to the completion of this report.

Quick Facts
  • Sterilization is a surgical procedure to prevent conception. Forced or coerced sterilization occurs when the procedure is performed without the patient’s free, prior and informed consent. This often has profound physical and psychological effects on survivors.
  • The practice of forced and coerced sterilization of marginalized and vulnerable groups — including Indigenous women, Black women, people with disabilities and intersex children — has a long history in Canada; cases of forced or coerced sterilization have been reported as recently as 2019.
  • Reproductive rights are considered part of the right to security of the person guaranteed by section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as numerous international law instruments.
  • Class action lawsuits have been brought forward in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Alberta on behalf of Indigenous women who say they were subjected to forced or coerced sterilizations.
  • The Senate Committee on Human Rights conducted a preliminary study of forced and coerced sterilization in Canada between 2019 and 2021. The committee released its first report on the subject in June 2021.

November 9, 2019


Coroner investigating systemic racism at Thunder Bay Hospital

Toronto Star – A 19-year old First Nations man taken to the hospital by ambulance in obvious distress was escorted off the hospital property three hours later by security staff. Apparently, escorting Indigenous people who are seeking medical care off of hospital property is common practice. The would be patient ultimately committed suicide at a remote part of nearby Lakehead University.

An internal review of the case by the hospital “concluded that appropriate actions were taken and that the right decisions were made by clinical staff based on the information provided to them and the patient’s presentation.”
Tanya Talaga, Toronto Star. An investigation is currently underway by Ontario’s chief coroner, Dirk Huyer. He told me it will look for any “potential systemic issues that may have played a role in contributing to the death — policies, procedures, steps taken.” It will also examine whether this death is part of a pattern — and make any recommendations necessary to break that pattern.

October 5, 2021


Coroners Report into death of Joyce Echaquan

APTN – The existence of systemic racism in the way Joyce Echaquan was treated in a Quebec hospital is undeniable, coroner Gehane Kamel said Tuesday, a few days after releasing her report on the Atikamekw mother’s controversial death. Kamel recommended the government recognize the existence of systemic racism and make a commitment to root it out of institutions.

“It is unacceptable that large sections of our society deny such a well-documented reality.” When asked if the mother of seven would still be alive if she were a white woman, Kamel replied: “I think so.” But despite the coroner’s recommendation, the Legault government has steadfastly denied systemic racism exists in the province. In a press melee held Tuesday – at the same time as the Echaquan family’s press conference – Legault doubled down on his denial of Quebec’s systemic issues. “Yes, there is some racism in Quebec – but less than many other places,” Legault told reporters. “The only place where I don’t agree is when we say that there’s a ‘system.’ Because for me, a system is coming from upstairs, coming from the top people – and I don’t see this in the health care system.”

One of her recommendatons to the Québec government was “to recognize the existence of systemic racism within our institutions and make a commitment to contribute to its elimination”.

Other Recommendations:

For the Quebec government

  • Recognize the existence of systemic racism within our institutions and make a commitment to contribute to its elimination.

For the regional health authority that governs the hospital in Joliette, Que., where Echaquan died

  • Ensure the effective integration of the Atikamekw liaison officer into the hospital, in particular by involving them with care teams.
  • Ensure notes in medical files reflect the reality of how patients are being cared for.
  • Review the nurses-to-orderlies ratio based on standards recognized at the provincial level in order to provide safe services to the population.
  • Maintain periodic training on the establishment’s code of ethics, restraint measures, the monitoring of patients following a fall, and record management.
  • Quickly set up training and activities for the inclusion of Indigenous culture that is coordinated with the community of Manawan.
  • Improve the nurse/nursing assistant model and ensure that each has a clear understanding of their roles.

For the College des medecins du Quebec, the province’s order of physicians

  • Review the quality of the medical care given by the doctor responsible for family medicine and by the medical resident in gastroenterology to Ms. Echaquan during her hospitalization in September 2020.
    For the Ordre des infirmieres et infirmiers du Quebec, the province’s nurses order
  • Examine the quality of care of nurses’ services provided to Ms. Echaquan during her hospitalization.
  • Review the integration practices of college-level nursing candidates in emergency departments across hospitals in the province.
  • Include in the school curriculum training on the care of Indigenous patients that takes into consideration the realities of Indigenous communities.
  • Establish with Indigenous communities a greater offer of internships for both nurses and medical residents.
    Quebec’s Human Rights Commission condemned the “systemic discrimination suffered by Indigenous Peoples, particularly in the health sector.” Echaquan’s death, president Philippe-André Tessier said in a statement, serves as a “tragic reminder of this reality and of the need for concerted and sustained action to address it.”

The Grand Chief of the Atikamekw Nation Council, Constant Awashish, called on the government to act swiftly and implement the recommendations put forward by the Viens commission.

November 3, 2022


Cree woman suing Edmonton hospital for ‘failing to provide medical care’ in birth of her daughter

Said the hospital failed that racism and malpractice led to the death of her newborn baby

APTN News: A member of Bigstone Cree First Nation in Alberta says she gave birth in an Edmonton hospital while a nurse watched and did nothing to help.

In a statement of claim filed in the Court of King’s Bench in Edmonton on Oct. 12, Pearl Gambler said she went to see her obstetrician on June 11, 2020 when she was 20 weeks pregnant because she was experiencing cramping and back pain.

The visit, she said, resulted in her daughter Sakihitowin’s (Cree for love) premature birth and death. Gambler has two other children and the cramps had seemed unusual for her.

Strong, resilient and Indigenous 

When she arrived at the obstetrical unit at Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton, Gambler said she was wearing a shirt that said “Strong. Resilient. Indigenous.” She was also wearing her hair in two braids.

According to the court documents, a staff person at the front desk told her that “there was nothing here for you” and sent her to the emergency department. “I went in [the hospital] to seek medical help, not to be treated like that – or my daughter,” Gambler said at a news conference hosted by First Nations of Treaty 8.- leave this sentence. Gambler said she waited for several hours before being given a bed. She was eventually taken for an ultrasound.

At the news conference, Gambler said when she asked for the results of her ultrasound, she was told that only her doctor could give her that information. She ended up having to wait all night. Her partner was told that he had to leave due to COVID-19 restrictions.

According to the statement of claim, on June 3, 2020, Gambler underwent a obstetrical ultrasound “which showed no abnormalities.”

On June 11, “Ms. Gambler was seen by two unknown obstetricians who advised Ms. Gambler that they would not conduct a vaginal exam due to the concern that it would disrupt the cervix and result in increased contractions and the possible delivery of her premature fetus,” according to court records.

But the next morning, on June 12, a physician whose name is redacted from the documents, told Gambler “that she had to perform a vaginal exam to inspect her cervix. Ms. Gambler resisted the vaginal exam due to the information given to her by the two unknown obstetricians in the 12 hours prior to arrival.

“Ms. Gambler eventually consented under duress, and performed a vaginal exam which caused Ms. Gambler an immense amount of pain and an amount of pain that she had not experienced in any vaginal exams during her 3 pregnancies,” the statement of claim said. Gambler said she immediately experienced the “onset of intense contractions.”

She said not all of the experience was bad. “One nurse went above and beyond,” said Gambler referring to a nurse at the hospital who was also pregnant. “She kept coming in and checking my baby’s heart rate and she said she was worried about me.”

Gave birth without assistance 

Later in the morning on June 12, Gambler “suffered a spontaneous rupture of membranes and delivered her 19-week-old fetus in the surgical room with 3 other patients, without hands on nursing care and without a physician having been called,” the statement said.

In the statement of claim it said that a male nurse stood in the corner of the room and watched her.

“Ms. Gambler repeatedly called for assistance from nursing staff at the Hospital. No nursing staff attended upon Ms. Gambler, except for a male nurse who stood in the corner of the room and watched her,” said the court documents. “He provided her no care and did not call any physician.”

Gambler said eventually some nurses arrived and one of them took charge. “She cut the umbilical cord and she told us I had given birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. And then she asked me if I wanted to hold her.”

But according to the court document, the baby, Sakihitowin Azaya Gambler, “was alive and gasping for air. She was not provided with any medical care after she was born, nor was a physician called to assess her or Ms. Gambler.” “Sakihitowin later passed away in a basket at the nursing station. There is no record of the time of death.” Gambler said a doctor visited her briefly to confirm the news that her baby had died.

According to the statement of claim, while Gambler was hemorrhaging and prior to the delivery of her placenta after birth, a staff member came to her room and asked her what she wanted to do with the “specimen” referring to her deceased daughter. She doesn’t feel that sufficient answers were provided to her about how her daughter died.

Gambler is suing the hospital for “failing to provide medical care” among other claims.

Her lawyer, Shelagh McGregor, said that the delay in talking about Sakihitowin’s death was due to her needing to take some time to heal and process the traumatic events. “These events have been incredibly traumatic and she spent a lot of time working and getting to the place where she can sit here and tell her story,” said McGregor.

Gambler is suing the physician, Covenant Health and the Misericordia Hospital for $1.3 million.

McGregor also said the decision to sue was to hold the hospital accountable for their lack of care and prevent future tragedies. “We want this to never happen again,” said McGregor.

The statement of claim also said, “the Defendants did not provide Ms. Gambler and Sakihitowin adequate medical care, in part or in whole due to Ms. Gambler’s race.” “My daughter should not have had to fight for her life because I am Indigenous,” said Gambler.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and no statement of defence has been filed.

Lawyer Shelagh McGregor, Pearl Gambler and Grand Chief Nosekey at a press conference. Photo: Danielle Paradis

At the press conference, Gambler also has the support of Treaty 8 Grand Chief Nosekey. He is calling on the provincial government to make changes to prevent situations like this. “Unfortunately this kind of treatment is all-too familiar to Indigenous people across the country,” he said.

Noskey said this is a reminder that Indigenous lives are not treated equally in the province of Alberta. “I am asking Alberta’s new premier [Danielle Smith] to make that change,” said Nosekey.

He also called for Indigenous cultural training across the health care system.

Treaty 8 also wants the staff involved to be held accountable and for all of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be implemented.

No comment from the hospital

Covenant Health, which operates the Misericordia, refused to comment on Gambler’s case, citing privacy concerns. They also would not answer questions about whether their staff received anti-racism training focused on awareness of issues faced by Indigenous people.

“Covenant Health takes any and all complaints and concerns seriously, including allegations of racism and discrimination. Racism and discrimination in all forms have no place within Covenant Health,” Karen Diaper wrote in a statement.

A statement of defence has not been filed.

The Canadian Premature Babies foundation said there is a high death rate among babies who are born 20 weeks or earlier. According to their website, “premature birth is the leading cause of infant mortality nationwide and a growing healthcare concern in Canada.”

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research says, “preterm birth [before 36 weeks] may result in serious health complications for the baby and increase the risk of developing chronic health conditions later in the life; it also accounts for nearly two thirds of infant deaths in Canada.”

Gambler said since this traumatic incident, even going to the doctor for routine issues has been very difficult.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated Nov. 4. 

September 15, 2017


Death of Brian Sinclair

CBC – Brian Sinclair was killed by racism on Sept. 21, 2008. He was ignored for 34 hours, despite his need for urgent medical care, because medical professionals made negative assumptions about him based solely on his appearance. Anti-Indigenous bias is an endemic problem in Canadian health care:

  • The hospital authority denied that stereotyping had anything to do with Mr. Sinclair’s death.
  • The government of Manitoba refused to hold a public inquiry.
  • The inquest into Mr. Sinclair’s death sidelined issues of race and social marginalization.
  • Regulatory bodies have been slow to implement any changes, if at all, and
  • no one has been held accountable for professional misconduct or criminal neglect.

The findings of the Manitoba Ombudsman rely on the government’s health and justice departments “appraising their own progress.”

The Brian Sinclair Working group was formed to examine the role of racism in the death of Brian Sinclair and in the inquest that followed, in order to highlight ongoing structural and systemic anti-Indigenous racism in our contemporary health and legal systems. The Sinclair family and the Sinclair Working Group have called for a public inquiry to explore the underlying systemic racism in the delivery of Health services to Indigenous populations. The Working Group aims to release a final report in 2018. The interim report “Ignored to Death” was issued Sept. 2017

February 26, 2021


Death of Joyce Echaquan

Montreal Gazette – Québec Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière, Health Minister Christian Dubé and interim Lanaudière health authority director Caroline Barbir announced along with Atikamekw chief Paul-Émile Ottawa announced the following changes:

* the creation of a reconciliation committee
* the addition to the health authority’s management of a liaison officer responsible for relations with the Atikamekw community
* a commissioner to deal with complaints from Indigenous users concerning the quality of services received at the institution. Both posts will be filled by members of the community
* a seat on the health authority’s board of directors will be reserved for an Indigenous candidate
* all health authority employees will be obliged to complete a training course, the content of which will be approved by the Atikamekw community

Finally, Dubé said the changes announced for the Lanaudière region’s health authority could serve as a model for reforms he intends to carry out throughout all of the health care network, with modifications for certain regions.

February 11, 2021


Death of Joyce Echaquan

Indigenous Services Canada – Minister of Indigenous Services, the Honourable Marc Miller, highlighted funding of $2 million to the Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw and the Conseil des Atikamekw de Manawan, Joyce’s community, to advance their work and advocacy for the implementation of Joyce’s Principle. With this funding, the Atikamekw, including the community members of Manawan, will be able to develop tools and training, promote Joyce’s Principle to healthcare professionals, and educate First Nations on their rights when using the healthcare systems. These funds will also be used to organize meetings with non-Indigenous Peoples on fighting racism.

December 15, 2020


Death of Joyce Echaquan

Release of “Racism in Québec: ZERO TOLERANCE. Report of the Groupe d’action contre le racism” by the Québec government that had no Indigenous representation. The Atikamekw nation says the 25 recommendations to counter racism raises more questions than answers. “Concrete proposals were offered in the brief for Joyce’s Principle to achieve changes with an impact on all health and social services. However, these do not seem to have been taken into account in the recommendations offered. We hope that the awakening linked to Joyce’s death will lead to some groundwork.”

Recommendations specific to Indigenous People (14-25)

14. Include in the national anti-racism awareness campaign a specific component on the realities of Indigenous peoples, to continually inform the public about the racism and discrimination experienced by First Nations and Inuit people.
15. Make the professional orders aware of the importance of training their members on Indigenous realities.
16. Make the history and current realities of Indigenous people in Québec a mandatory part of initial teacher training programs.
17. Change the academic curriculum at the primary and secondary levels to update concepts related to the history, cultures, heritage and current realities of Indigenous peoples in Québec and Canada and their impact on society.
18. Introduce continual, mandatory training on Indigenous realities for government employees.
19. End the informal practice of prohibiting people from speaking Indigenous languages while receiving public services.
20. Make the ban on random police stops mandatory.
21. Add Indigenous social services workers to some police services to create mixed patrol teams.
22. Increase the resources of Indigenous community organizations that promote access to justice for First Nations and Inuit people.
23. Improve the capacity of the justice system to address the heritage and life trajectory of Indigenous offenders by granting more resources for the use of the Gladue principle specific to First Nations and Inuit people.
24. Improve the quality and availability of interpretation services in Indigenous languages for better access to justice.
25. Increase resources allocated to off-reserve housing.

November 10, 2020


Death of Joyce Echaquan

Québec Government – is investing $3.1M in Joliette “to enable the relocation and enlargement of the Centre d’amitié autochtone de Lanaudière (CAAL), an Indigenous community organization founded in 2001. Its mission is to improve the living conditions of Indigenous people living in or passing through the Joliette region by providing a number of support services, assistance and information through programs specially designed for Indigenous families.” The Centre will provide:

  • Consultation offices and a community room and kitchen;
  • Spaces to promote Indigenous history, arts and cultures;
  • Spaces for social economy activities;
  • Spaces that can be shared with partners;
  • Rooms dedicated to the CAAL’s Mirerimowin clinic;
  • A residential annex
  • An early childhood centre (CPE), a child-minding service and a playroom;
  • Administrative offices

November 6, 2020


Death of Joyce Echaquan

The Québec government will invest $15 million to implement targeted actions to enhance cultural safety for members of First Nations and Inuit in the health and social services sector. This announcement follows several calls to action by the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec.

October 16, 2020


Death of Joyce Echaquan

Emergency meeting on racism in Canada’s healthcare system. AFN recommendations to all levels of government:

  • Work directly with First Nations to ensure that Indigenous Peoples feel safe accessing health care services.
  • Quebec needs to work with First Nations to fully implement the Viens Commission Report’s recommendations.
  • Canada must conduct an immediate review of the Canada Health Transfers and the Canada Health Act, to ensure quality health care is being provided to Indigenous Peoples.
  • The federal, provincial, and territorial governments must listen to Indigenous Peoples on the need for a healthcare Ombudsperson.
  • The Provinces and Territories must work with educational institutions to ensure a more expansive curriculum for all health

October 2, 2020


Death of Joyce Echaquan

Québec government announced the launch of a public inquiry under the coroner’s office.

September 30, 2020


Death of Joyce Echaquan

Montreal Gazette – “In her last moments, while tied to a hospital bed, Joyce Echaquan, a 37 year-old Atikamekw woman, pleaded for someone to help her. Instead, a video she recorded shows she received disparaging and condescending remarks — at a time when Québec continues to grapple with the larger question of systemic racism.” The Québec coroner’s office is investigating the death that Premier François Legault insists is not reflective of systemic racism within the Québec Health system despite that conclusion being found by the Viens Commission from one year ago.

“One professor told the commission the situation is so dire many Indigenous people will avoid going to the hospital over fears of being discriminated against. For those who have to go, they mentally prepare themselves first for the treatment they’ll be subjected to…Echaquan had grown so wary of hospital staff that she would often record Facebook live videos from her bed, her cousin said”.

Québec’s Human Rights Commission condemned the “systemic discrimination suffered by Indigenous Peoples, particularly in the health sector.” Echaquan’s death, president Philippe-André Tessier said in a statement, serves as a “tragic reminder of this reality and of the need for concerted and sustained action to address it.” The Grand Chief of the Atikamekw Nation Council, Constant Awashish, called on the government to act swiftly and implement the recommendations put forward by the Viens commission.

November 16, 2020


Death of Joyce Echaquan – Joyce’s Principle

The Council of the Atikamekw of Manawan (CDAM) and the Council of the Atikamekw Nation (CAN) –  have submitted a brief for “Joyce’s Principle” to Francis Legault, the Premier of Québec and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Québec Government has rejected adopting Joyce’s Principle “a call to action and commitment to governments to facilitate the transition towards health and social services systems that are safer and free from discrimination for Indigenous people across Québec and Canada.

Joyce’s Principle makes specific reference to Article 24 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

  • Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals. Indigenous individuals also have the right to access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services.
  • Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of this right.

On Nov. 24, 2020 the Québec National Assembly refused to adopt Joyce’s Principle due its explicit reference to systemic racism within Québec.

September 29, 2022


Death of Joyce Echaquan: Family files $2.7 million lawsuit against Quebec public health agency

APTN: The family of  Joyce Echaquan, the Atikamekw mother of seven who was mocked by staff as she lay dying in a Quebec hospital in September 2020 has filed a lawsuit seeking nearly $2.7 million.

Echaquan, 37, filmed herself on Facebook Live as a nurse and an orderly were heard making derogatory comments toward her at a hospital in Joliette, Que., northeast of Montreal.

The video of her treatment in September 2020 went viral and drew outrage and condemnation across the province and the country.

The lawsuit filed today in Joliette names the public health agency in charge of the hospital, a doctor who treated her and the nurse who was caught on film insulting Echaquan. The family is seeking a total of $2.675 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

The statement of claim says, in part, that Echaquan was denied, “her fundamental rights and the obligations owed to her by the defendants were violated in a context of systemic racism and unsafe health care.”

Named in the suit are the  Lanaudière Regional Hospital Center in Joliette, Que. where Echaquan attended, the Lanaudière Integrated Health and Social Services Center, Dr. Jasmine Thanh and Paule Rocray, the nurse who can be heard insulting Echaquan and who later pled guilty to verbal violence and negligence in the treatment of her.

Thanh and the health agency are being sued for $2,155,000, Rocray for $20,000, and the health agency alone is being sued for an additional $500,000.

Joyce Echaquan inquiry
Joyce Echaquan in an undated photo.

Lawyers for the family say the key argument in the lawsuit is that the Echaquan story isn’t an isolated one.

Two years before her death, the Viens Commission into the treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Quebec’s public services heard the testimony of 20 instances of racism at the Joliette hospital towards Atikamekw people.

“When the death of Joyce happened, we realized that nothing was done, no concrete gestures were made to address this situation,” said lawyer Patrick Martin-Ménard.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault recently apologized for saying in a leaders’ debate that the racism issue at the Joliette hospital is settled.

It’s not the first time Legault has taken heat on the issue. Despite what happened to Echaquan, and the overwhelming evidence contained in the Viens Commission, Legault is maintaining that systemic racism doesn’t exist in Quebec.

Legault later apologized to Carol Dubé, Echaquan’s husband for offending him.

According to Dubé, the discussion on systemic racism comes down to this; “the things that should’ve been changed were not changed. And we’re still waiting.”

According to Constant Awashish, grand chief of the Atikamekw Nation, the lawsuit isn’t only about Joyce Echaquan – it’s about making life safer for Indigenous people who have to use the health care system.

“Hopefully this lawsuit will make things move faster, further as well,” he said.

The Public Health Agency of Lanaudière said it won’t comment on the lawsuit.

The family and the community of Manawan marked the second anniversary of her death on Wednesday.

With files from the Canadian Press

January 28, 2021

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Emergency Meeting on Indigenous Health

Assembly of First Nations – AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde reiterated recommendations and called for urgency in addressing systemic racism in Canada’s health care systems at a two-day virtual meeting with federal, provincial and territorial ministers and Metis and Inuit leaders that ended today. The meeting, convened by Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Health Minister Patty Hajdu, gathered Indigenous leaders and health system experts to discuss short and long-term strategies to eliminate anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health care systems.

It is the second of its kind since the death of Joyce Echaquan in hospital September 2020. “There seems to be a shared sense of responsibility by all parties to addressing racism in the health care system, but until First Nations and Indigenous peoples are treated with the respect, quality of care and attention they deserve, meetings of this nature will not have the impact that’s required,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “Implementation of recommendations and reporting on their progress and outcomes will be essential

October 16, 2020

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Emergency Meeting on Indigenous Health

Emergency meeting on racism in Canada’s healthcare system.

AFN recommendations to all levels of government:

  • Work directly with First Nations to ensure that Indigenous Peoples feel safe accessing health care services.
  • Quebec needs to work with First Nations to fully implement the Viens Commission Report’s recommendations.
  • Canada must conduct an immediate review of the Canada Health Transfers and the Canada Health Act, to ensure quality health care is being provided to Indigenous Peoples.
  • The federal, provincial, and territorial governments must listen to Indigenous Peoples on the need for a healthcare Ombudsperson.
  • The Provinces and Territories must work with educational institutions to ensure a more expansive curriculum for all health care providers

December 17, 2019


Environment and Health

Canada’s National Observer – Repeated failure by government authorities to conduct a comprehensive baseline health study as recommended by the Alberta Cancer Board (supported by the province’s governing health authority, Alberta Health Services) in 2009. In Fort Chipewyan a community of roughly 1,200 people, the study found, you would expect to see 39 cases of cancer. Instead, it found 51 cases, a difference of 30.7 per cent. The Athabaska River flows through Canada’s oil patch, giving rise to the theory that the oil-and-gas industry is responsible for the illnesses, having poisoned people for years by contaminating the environment. Government bodies and researchers have challenged that theory, leading to a call for a new more conclusive health study that could provide real answers.

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation pooled their resources to fund research. With some additional funding from Health Canada, a three-year, $1-million study was led by Stephane McLachlan, a professor at the University of Manitoba. His findings released in 2014 measured contaminants not only in water but also in beavers, ducks, fish, moose and muskrats — animals consumed as part of a traditional diet for those who continue to live off the land in the Peace-Athabasca Delta. He concluded that the animals contained high concentrations of pollutants such as carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, cadmium and selenium. All of these are by-products of extracting and upgrading bitumen. Arsenic in particular has been linked to increased risk of biliary tract cancer.

September 21, 2022


Family wants answers after Mi’kmaw grandmother dies unexpectedly in Cape Breton hospital

APTN: Lynn Francis is looking for answers after her mother, Bridget Anne Denny, 65, died while in care at the regional hospital in Cape Breton.

“I thought she had the care she needed when we left her that evening, so I was really in shock,” said Lynn Francis. Bridget Anne Denny, 65, died unexpectedly while in care at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital on Jan. 20, 2021.

Denny, a residential school survivor, mother of five, grandmother to 15, Mi’kmaw language speaker, and an active member of her community, the Eskasoni First Nation, went to the hospital on Jan. 19, 2021, for pain and complications from her diabetes.

MaryI Joe-Francis, Bridget’s daughter-in-law, said she died the next morning and the doctor on shift said an autopsy wasn’t necessary. “She advised that an autopsy wasn’t really needed because she had so many health issues but really, we didn’t have, we didn’t know how she died,” said Joe-Francis.

Denny’s body was cremated and days before the funeral, the family found out from another patient that Denny had fallen in the middle of the night. “That was not brought up when we had the conversation with the doctor and the nurses, we were there for hours after she had passed away, the whole family was there,” said Joe-Francis.

Joe-Francis obtained Denny’s medical chart, then filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia. “If we had known she had fallen, that all that stuff was wrong with her the night before, we would have wanted an autopsy. The medical examiner wasn’t even made aware of her death because it was just kind of like brushed off,” said Joe-Francis.

Joe-Francis met with hospital staff for answers, with no success.

“I would say it’s heated actually like it was a lot of back and forth but a lot of anger and frustrations from us, we wanted answers and we didn’t get any, we left there even angrier than we were that day because they had nothing, they had nothing,” said Joe-Francis.

Bridget Denny
Left: MaryI Joe-Francis, Amanda Francis, Lynn Francis, seated Gorga Francis holding photo of her grandmother Bridget Anne Denny. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN.

The incident sparked an investigation under the Protection for Persons in Care Act. A final report issued on Feb. 25, 2021 concluded:

“The facility failed to provide adequate care based on the lack of documentation … in response to the affected patient’s unwitnessed fall, including failing to document the affected patient’s post fall vitals and post fall assessments firsthand, staff inaccurately completed the affected patient’s admission fall risk assessment and hourly checks, and no documented evidence that post fall neuro vitals and a SIMS report were completed.”

The report also said, “it is beyond the scope of this investigation to determine if this contributed to the affected patient’s death.”

Associate professor of ethics at Dalhousie University Lynette Reid, can’t comment directly on Denny’s case, but said inadequate care is unethical. “When unsafe care is being delivered then a line is being crossed,” said Reid.

According to the report, even staff were shocked by Denny’s death stating: “All staff interviewed reported they were “surprised” and “shocked” by the death of the affected patient.” One staff  reported the death of the affected patient as “unexpected.” 

The report requested the hospital’s policy on unexpected death, including the process to notify the medical examiner, but the hospital would not provide the policy. According to the report, had the doctor known about the fall, the medical examiner would have been notified.

Francis said she was devastated by this information.

She and the family went through a time of mourning – and trying to figure out what to do next about the situation before coming to APTN News. “I was disgusted with the report, I can’t believe they are actually treating patients like that especially when your Native they brush you off,” said Francis.

The report said Denny’s fall injury risk assessment was inaccurate.

“As evidenced by incorrect scoring for two identified risks, ie: IV and history of falls, it did not include the date, time and signature of the person who completed the assessment,” said the report. “This inaccurate assessment resulted in the affected patient being identified as a low risk for falls, and therefore, the additional high risk for falls interventions were not considered.”

Joe-Francis wonders if discrimination had a factor in Denny’s death, and hopes to find answers.

July 11, 2022

Fed. Govt.

First Nations Health Managers Association to launch “RISE Against Racism” campaign

Akwesasne, Traditional Mohawk Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada: Accessing quality health services can be a stressful experience. Anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health systems, such as discriminatory language in interactions with patients and negative stereotyping that influences care decisions, can have a negative impact on health outcomes. That is why the First Nations Health Managers Association, in partnership with the First Peoples Wellness Circle and the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, are working to change problematic language and perceptions within the context of health systems through the RISE Against Racism campaign.

Focusing on hospitals, health care providers, health authorities and medical schools, this campaign will work to change problematic biases and perceptions by promoting mutual respect, understanding and empathy toward Indigenous Peoples seeking health services. After its official launch later this year, the campaign will include print marketing, a series of television interviews, radio interviews and commercials, as well as public service messaging to communities informing them of available resources.

Indigenous Services Canada is supporting this work with a $400K contribution in 2021-2022 and $480K in 2022-2023. This investment is part of $126.7 million allocated through Budget 2021 over three years to address anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health systems. The Government of Canada remains committed to working with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous partners and health providers to increase safety and respect for Indigenous Peoples in Canada’s health systems.


“RISE Against Racism is an important campaign that will help to address anti-Indigenous racism that has persisted in Canada’s health systems for far too long. I commend the First Nations Health Managers Association, along with the First Peoples Wellness Circle and the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, on their hard work and vision to launch this campaign, as it will help to foster better experiences and outcomes for Indigenous Peoples when they access health care.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services

“Working together with our partners―the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation and the First Peoples Wellness Circle―provides an opportunity to incorporate our collective strengths, voices, and values into this campaign. We collectively call on Canada and our allies to RISE against racism.”

Marion Crowe
First Nations Health Managers Association

Quick facts

  • Budget 2021 has committed $126.7 million over three years to foster health systems where Indigenous Peoples are respected and safe.
  • This investment aligns with the federal response to improve access to culturally safe services, with a focus on services for Indigenous women, 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups who may experience intersecting discrimination.

Related products

Associated links


For more information, media may contact:

Alison Murphy
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services

Media Relations
Indigenous Services Canada

Marion Crowe
First Nations Health Managers Association

May 17, 2021


Forced sterilization in Québec

The Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT) and the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) – in collaboration with several partners gathered within a regional committee, call on everyone to participate in research on free and informed consent and imposed sterilization, including obstetric violence, among First Nations and Inuit women in Quebec. The research is launched jointly with the Council of Elected Women of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL), Quebec Native Women, the Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association, the Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec, the Office of Senator Yvonne Boyer, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services as well as the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay. The regional committee invites First Nations and Inuit women to testify on a personal experience or that of a loved one.

This research is part of the work of the Canada Research Chair on Indigenous Women’s Issues at UQAT, led by Professor Suzy Basile. More specifically, this is the theme of the research of doctoral student in Indigenous Studies at UQAT, Patricia Bouchard. “This research takes place in a context where the Quebec government has chosen not to participate in the federal working group on forced sterilization of Indigenous women in Canada, underway since 2018, while we have come to the conclusion, in particular by the development of a literature review carried out by the Laboratoire de recherche Mikwatisiw of UQAT, that there is a glaring lack of relevant data on this topic in Quebec. In light of these facts, it seemed essential to us to compile a portrait of the situation in order to better understand it and measure its impacts,” says Professor Basile. This research therefore aims to document this phenomenon and the circumstances in which these medical procedures might have been performed in order to identify certain trends, if any. It will also be an opportunity to give a voice to First Nations and Inuit women who may have experienced obstetric violence by allowing them to share their experience and traumas.

“Last year, the sad circumstances surrounding the death of Joyce Echaquan shed light on the acts of systemic discrimination experienced by First Nations and Inuit women in Quebec health institutions. In this sense, this research is of crucial importance; in addition to demonstrating the violence that our women, sisters and daughters might have suffered, it is a first step towards achieving healthier practices and quality services,” indicated Marjolaine Siouï, Executive Director of the FNQLHSSC.

December 10, 2018

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Forced Sterilizations

72 organizations endorse the joint statement from Amnesty International Canada, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, calling for government action to #DefendConsent and end #ForcedSterilization of Indigenous women in Canada

Canadian Press – All the women interviewed felt that the health system had not served their needs, and they had felt powerless to do anything about it. Aboriginal women who have had such an experience that prevents them from accessing health care are aware that they are higher risk for negative consequences of health problems that are preventable or treatable if diagnosed early; they still cannot get past their distrust. In its submission to the UN committee, the law firm said there has been no effort at a comprehensive review to understand the scale of the problem or the conditions that make forced sterilizations possible.

July 22, 2017


Forced Sterilizations in Saskatoon hospitals

CBC – Indigenous women were coerced into having a tubal ligation in Saskatoon hospitals while still in labour. A class action lawsuit was initiated on October 5, 2017 by two affected women in the Saskatoon Health Region. Now about 60 women are part of the lawsuit.

CBC – Nov. 18, 2018 – Authorities should very carefully read Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the UN in 1948”, Romeo Saganash, an NDP MP said. “It says that “genocide” includes any acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, such as by “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”

October 13, 2022

Fed. Govt., ON

How stereotypes led to the deaths of two Indigenous men in Thunder Bay police custody: expert

Donald Mamakwa (left) and Roland McKay (right) both died in custody of Thunder Bay Police Services. Oct. 12/22 (The Canadian Press)

CTV News: A physician with expertise in Indigenous health care told a coroner’s inquest Wednesday that she heard stereotypes kick in from the first 9-1-1 call that led to a man being arrested for public intoxication before he died from medical conditions in Thunder Bay police custody hours later.

Dr. Suzanne Shoush testified as an expert witness at the joint inquest into the deaths of Donald Mamakwa, 44, in 2014 and his 50-year-old uncle Roland McKay in 2017. Both Indigenous men died of medical illnesses in cells at Thunder Bay Police Service headquarters after they were arrested on suspicion of public intoxication, and neither was assessed by a doctor or nurse before they died.

Shoush testified about how biases and prejudice based on racist assumptions can cause “malignant narratives” to take over when people interact with certain groups, like those who are Indigenous, appear intoxicated or are experiencing homelessness.

She said she observed that pattern play out in 9-1-1 recordings the inquest heard a day earlier when an anonymous man called to report that he had seen Mamakwa “passed out” on the steps of a Thunder Bay church.

“It was a malignant narrative from the beginning,” Shoush testified in Thunder Bay. “Stereotypes came into play.”

Shoush noted that the man reacted with apparent “disgust” when asked if he approached Mamakwa. A conversation between responders on the line who later commented about where the report came in from suggested they held stigma about the area and “disdain” for an alcohol treatment program nearby, Shoush added.

Shoush stressed the importance that people in high-stress, public-facing jobs like policing and health care undertake cultural safety training and learn “circuit breaker” techniques to interrupt biases informed by racist and other stereotypes that can affect their decision-making. This can help prevent “catastrophic” outcomes, she testified.

“As we saw in this inquest, the impacts can actually be very deadly. They can actually result in death,” she testified.

Earlier in the day, the inquest viewed cellblock footage depicting Mamakwa in the hours before he died that showed him reaching out for help, lying down and struggling to move.

The inquest heard Tuesday that he died from complications of diabetes and sepsis — a cause of death inquest counsel has said was likely preventable if he had been taken to a hospital, where he would have had a 97 per cent chance of survival.

The footage, which did not have sound, showed Mamakwa at one point reaching his arm out between the bars of the cell, holding a juice box. Inquest counsel said the timing of the clip corresponded with testimony from another man who had been in custody at the time and told investigators that Mamakwa had asked him for a drink but he was unable to help him.

An earlier clip showed a constable dropping off the juice box while Mamakwa was lying on the bed. He used his left foot to slowly slide the juice box towards him and appeared to drink it while lying down.

Many of the clips showed Mamakwa lying down. In others, he was sitting up and rocking back and forth, appearing to breathe heavily, clutching his chest and struggling to stand shortly before he died early on Aug. 3, 2014.

Shoush testified about structural racism in Canada’s health-care system stemming from the country’s colonial history, and racist stereotypes that Indigenous people face like those related to alcohol use, despite real-world evidence that contradicts them.

Her testimony also touched on how health conditions like sepsis and blood sugar can mimic intoxication and cause a person to have an altered level of consciousness. She said people in that state should be checked in on regularly and cleared by a medical professional.

Families of the two men testified Tuesday about the pain of their losses knowing that they were not taken hospital for treatment.

Shoush said she noted that Mamakwa’s family shared that he, like many other Indigenous adults in Thunder Bay, did not have a primary caregiver and he would go to the emergency room when he needed care for his diabetes. This would have left him with no control over his chronic condition and with no reliable source of care or trusted provider to help him prevent the illness from worsening, she said.

The “context and nuance” of the events around him being taken into custody — that Mamakwa was a visibly Indigenous person — must be considered when looking at the tragic outcome and trying to find solutions, she added. “I find it hard to believe that the only problem was a failure to recognize a basic medical crisis,” she said.

“It’s that we are not addressing the biases that are unconscious and subconscious.”

The inquest also heard an audio recording Wednesday of an interview with a paramedic who said he did not physically assess Mamakwa or take him to the hospital despite the man asking to go.

In the conversation, which was recorded the year after Mamakwa’s death, Rob Corbeil said Mamakwa was already being taken into police custody at the time when the ambulance arrived in response to a “man down” call. Corbeil said Mamakwa said twice that he wanted to go to the hospital, telling Corbeil “I can’t breathe.”

The paramedic said Mamakwa appeared “normal” to him and did not appear to be having difficulty breathing. Corbeil said he told the police officers, “‘He doesn’t look short of breath to me,’ or something to that effect.”

Corbeil said he did not physically assess Mamakwa and left shortly after.

“In retrospect, I probably should have done a set of vitals. I could not find a reason to. There was nothing wrong with him as far as I could see,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2022.

July 12, 2021


Human Rights complaints

The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) – fully supports the human rights complaints filed this week on behalf of First Nation citizens living in what is now Manitoba.

Three human rights complaints were filed against the federal government this week alleging systemic discrimination as well as a failure to provide proper services where they were needed for First Nation adults with disabilities. The Public Interest Law Centre brought the complaints on behalf of two First Nation people, both of whom are from southern First Nations. “We have laws and principles, such as Jordan’s Principle, to protect First Nation people and ensure our citizens finally receive the full and proper care that they deserve. Clearly and unfortunately, the system continues to fail us despite these laws,” stated SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels. “Though we are continually let down by colonial governments in this country, it is heartening to see First Nation citizens standing up for their rights and demanding better treatment and the substantive equality they deserve.”

Aidan Wilson from Peguis First Nation and Carly Sinclair from Sagkeeng Anicinabe First Nation have both experienced discrimination when seeking essential health care and services. Aidan was forced to leave Peguis First Nation and live in Winnipeg due to challenges receiving help and services for his disabilities. Living in Winnipeg has meant separation from his community and culture, and this separation was highlighted in the complaint. “The federal government continues to not only discriminate against our people but also separate them from their home, extended family, and community,” said Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson. “It’s unimaginable to me that at a time when the truth of the destruction caused by residential schools and separating children from their homes is finally coming to light for all of Canada to see, the federal government continues to contribute to the separation of our communities. It’s heartbreaking that Aidan and his family cannot live where they want to, with their people, due to systemic failures.”

Carly Sinclair has a rare neurological disorder caused by a mosquito bite, and she does not receive regular doctor’s visits and is excluded from many aspects of daily life that most Canadians take for granted. “Carly has suffered needlessly,” stated Sagkeeng Anicinabe First Nation Chief Derrick Henderson. “All First Nations should receive adequate and full services and care for their citizens with disabilities, the same as Canadians living off reserve. This should include our adult citizens, especially those who received inadequate access to services as children and now continue to be discriminated against as adults.”

Jordan’s Principle, named after Jordan River Anderson who passed away while in hospital in Manitoba as provincial and federal governments fought over which order of government would pay for his care, legally requires that First Nation children with disabilities receive the support and care they need when and where the need them, regardless of jurisdiction. Unfortunately, this principle does not extend to adults.

September 22, 2022


Human Rights Tribunal Rejects Attempt to Derail UBCIC’s Challenge to Liver Transplant Discrimination

NationTalk: (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh)/Vancouver, B.C. – The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) has rejected an attempt by BC health authorities to dismiss UBCIC’s representative complaint against discriminatory access to liver transplants for Indigenous patients.  The Provincial Health Services Authority, the BC Transplant Society and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority are respondents in that complaint.

In September of 2020, UBCIC filed a representative complaint asserting that Indigenous patients are denied equal access to liver transplants. The human rights action is part of a larger campaign by UBCIC to pursue equal access to medical services for Indigenous people.

The circumstances that gave rise to this human rights complaint and UBCIC intervention in the Tribunal was specifically identified as a case of concern when the In Plain Sight report was released after an independent inquiry (page 49)). That Report called upon BC health service providers, Ministry of Health and related entities to take immediate and necessary steps to eradicate all forms of individual and systemic racism against Indigenous peoples in the health care system.

UBCIC’s case challenges two aspects of the process to determine access to liver transplants. First, the case challenges a policy requiring a 6 month period of abstinence from alcohol consumption before being considered for a liver transplant as discriminatory. Research shows that a 6 month period of abstinence is unnecessary to health recovery from a liver transplant. The respondents had argued that they had decided to change the abstinence policy in May of 2019, and then circulated a letter to specialists thereafter. The BCHRT found that merely announcing a policy change is not enough, and that the new policy was not released until 2022. Furthermore, the BCHRT found that it is not enough for health authorities to merely change the official policy; they must also change the discriminatory practice.

“Cases that document clear and irrefutable discrimination against Indigenous peoples in BC Health care have been well documented and repeatedly condemned, and I refer anyone to the thorough In Plain Sight report. We are coming up on the 2nd anniversary of that report, and we should be at this stage when the discrimination is eliminated, and not simply a time when complaints move forward in the human rights system,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC President, in response to the decision. “This has to be fixed and with great diligence.”

The second aspect of the case challenges the use of the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score, which is used as a measurement of need for a transplant.  MELD scores of patients with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC) tend to be lower, and Indigenous patients, particularly Indigenous women, are disproportionately affected by PBC.

A portion of the claim against the Ministry of Health was dismissed on the basis that the Ministry did not have a role in creating or implementing the discriminatory policies. This does not affect the force or impact of the claim.

“I have very little doubt that UBCIC bringing this claim forced the transplant authorities to change their policies,” said Jason Gratl, legal counsel for UBCIC. “Quality assurance and documented details are needed to demonstrate that the policies are fully implemented and the victims properly compensated.”

Media inquiries:

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, 250-490-5314
Chief Don Tom, Vice-President, 604-290-6083
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer, c/o 778-866-0548
Jason Gratl, UBCIC Legal Counsel, 604-317-1919

For more information please visit

September 17, 2017


Ignored to death: Brian Sinclair’s death caused by racism, inquest inadequate, group says

Brian Sinclair, 45, was found dead in Health Sciences Centre ER 34 hours after arriving without being treated

Brian Sinclair was 45 when he died waiting to be seen in the emergency room at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre. He was discovered dead 34 hours after he arrived. (Maurice Bruneau/Submitted by family)

CBC: A group of doctors and academics from across Canada say an Indigenous man who died while waiting for care in a Winnipeg emergency room in 2008 was killed by racism, and say the subsequent inquest into his death didn’t address the real problem.

“Medicine and health always sees itself as benevolent and caring for people. It’s not true for many Indigenous people, it’s a violent encounter,” said Dr. Barry Lavallee, a professor at the University of Manitoba and the director of education for the Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing/Ongomiizwin.

Lavallee is one of five members of the Brian Sinclair Working Group, which released an interim report and recommendations on Monday — nearly nine years to the day after the death of its namesake, Brian Sinclair.

Sinclair was 45 when staff at a community health care centre sent him to the Health Sciences Centre to have a catheter changed on Sept. 19, 2008.

Thirty-four hours later, Sinclair was found dead in his wheelchair, after waiting in the hospital’s emergency room for more than a day without being seen. In an inquest into his death, health-care workers from the hospital said they’d assumed Sinclair was drunk and “sleeping it off,” had been discharged previously and had nowhere to go, or was homeless and had come to avoid the cold.

Out of Sight is the interim report from the Brian Sinclair Working Group, released on Monday. (Brian Sinclair Working Group)

The final report, completed in 2014, concluded Sinclair’s death was preventable and put forward 63 recommendations to overhaul the front end of Winnipeg’s health-care services, including how patients in ERs are triaged and registered.

But the final report from the inquest stopped short of calling Sinclair’s death a homicide, and did not echo the family’s call for a public inquiry into how Indigenous people are treated in the health-care system.

Lavallee and his team say the inquest failed to address issues that are central to understanding Sinclair’s story, criticizing its recommendations as largely leaving aside the unique health needs of Indigenous patients and voicing skepticism about inquests in general as being too narrowly focused on a single death rather than larger social patterns.

“The recommendations from the inquest itself did not and will not interrogate racism,” Lavallee said on Monday at a panel discussion on the working group’s interim report, Out of Sight, which concludes Sinclair’s death was a result of racism in the health-care system.

“…The recommendations wholly have not done anything to protect Indigenous people, 10 years later.”

‘A wake-up call’

Réal Cloutier, the interim president of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, called the group’s presentation a “wake-up call,” and said the authority has worked to implement many of the recommendations from the initial inquest report in 2014.

“We all know Mr. Sinclair’s death was preventable, and we failed Mr. Sinclair as a health-care system,” he said. “…We need to understand that the perceptions we have, the assumptions we make about people all impact about how we deliver care to individuals, and we really have to come to terms that systemic racism has [an impact] on the way we deliver health-care services.”

In its own report, the working group listed four interim recommendations, including calls on the federal and provincial governments to implement explicit anti-racism policies in health care, and the development of professional accountability strategies for repeated acts of racism.

Cloutier said he hadn’t seen the new recommendations prior to Monday, but said he plans to go to the authority’s board of directors to discuss the report and how to adopt its recommendations.

A provincial spokesperson wrote in an email the province is reviewing research into anecdotal reports of racism and discrimination in health-care services, and said the recently announced Shared Health Services will be developing “consistent health delivery standards.”

The spokesperson said the province is committed to working with the Indigenous community to create long-term changes in health care.

“These kind of programs and services take time, sensitivity and sustained support for meaningful and transformative system change,” she wrote.

“While progressing on challenging health system constructs has been slow, we are starting to see positive steps as we move forward.”

Lavallee said so far, the group has had “minimal contact” from the WRHA, province and federal government. He said the overall goal of the group’s recommendations is to eliminate anti-Indigenous racism throughout the health-care system.

“I think the hope is that there’ll at least be some incremental steps, perhaps at a more rapid rate than not,” he said.

“I’m going to remain a bit hopeful that maybe we could push it a little bit more at this point in time, but we need our allies in the system to actually come together with us.”

December 1, 2021


In Plain Sight Report

Victoria Times Colonist – Fewer than half of the 24 recommendations to address Indigenous-specific racism in the province’s health-care system have been fully implemented on the one-year anniversary of the In Plain Sight report. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said she’s been “closely” monitoring progress:

  • apologies issued by health system leaders and regulatory bodies,
  • a critical amendment to the B.C. Human Rights Code to include Indigenous identity as a protected ground from discrimination, and
  • the hiring of Indigenous senior leaders across health authorities and the Health Ministry to lead change from the inside.

But much more work is needed, Turpel-Lafond said. “In the meantime, Indigenous Peoples have continued to be disproportionately harmed and oppressed, and they continue to die as a result of the impacts of racism and the twin public health emergencies.” Turpel-Lafond said the province has not used available tools to uphold obligations under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act to address anti-Indigenous racism as it relates to the right to health — including the right to traditional medicines, access without discrimination to health and social services.

April 23, 2021


In Plain Sight Report

Budget 2021 invested $45 million over three years to respond to the recommendations of the “In Plain Sight” report on systemic anti-Indigenous racism in the healthcare system:

Expand First Nations cultural safety and humility training and Indigenous liaisons within each regional health authority
Address systemic racism against Indigenous people in the health care system through training, education, and
prioritizing hiring of a more diverse health care workforce that better reflects all the people of B.C.

February 5, 2021


In Plain Sight Report

Toronto Star – Health Minister Adrian Dix provided an update on his government’s progress on implementing the original 24 recommendations. He said his government is providing funding for 32 Indigenous health liaisons in health authorities across the province, of which nine are already in place. It has also ensured that each health authority board has at least two Indigenous members, he said. A toll-free number and email established during the review will remain active so Indigenous people can report their experiences of racism in the health-care system, he added. The province has also appointed Dawn Thomas as the new associate deputy minister of Indigenous health, and struck a task force to drive the implementation of the recommendations.

December 1, 2020


In Plain Sight Report

Toronto Star – The independent investigation – touted as the first complete review of racism in a Canadian health-care system – released its report “In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care“. The investigation has found pervasive systemic racism against Indigenous people in this province based on the following findings:

  1. Widespread Indigenous-specific stereotyping, racism and discrimination exist in the B.C. health care system.
  2. Racism limits access to medical treatment and negatively affects the health and wellness of Indigenous peoples in B.C.
  3. Indigenous women and girls are disproportionately impacted by Indigenous-specific racism in the health care system.
  4. Current public health emergencies magnify racism and vulnerabilities and disproportionately impact Indigenous peoples.
  5. Indigenous health care workers face significant racism and discrimination in their work and study environments
  6. Current education and training programs are inadequate to address Indigenous-specific racism in health care.
  7. Complaints processes in the health care system do not work for Indigenous peoples.
  8. Indigenous health practices and knowledge are not integrated into the health care system in a meaningful and consistent way.
  9. There is insufficient integration, or “hard-wiring” of Indigenous cultural safety throughout the health care system.
  10. Indigenous structures and roles in health decision- making need to be strengthened.
  11. There is no accountability for eliminating Indigenous- specific racism in the B.C. health care system, including system-wide data and monitoring of progress.

The report calls for a “Renewed Foundation” built on three foundational elements to addressing the legacy of colonialism in the health care system:

  1. Racism in the health care system is a reflection of a lack of respect and implementation of the basic human rights of Indigenous peoples.
  2. Racism within the health care system is integrated with, and in many aspects indivisible from, broader patterns and conditions throughout society.
  3. While those who experience the problem of racism in the health care system must be intimately involved in developing solutions, we know that the responsibility and burdens of this work lie with non-Indigenous individuals, communities, organizations and governments.

“In Plain Sight” concludes with 24 detailed recommendations for stakeholders in the health-care system in BC but also emphasizes that many of the Observations, Findings and Recommendations have implications for the federal government as responsibility for health is an area of shared and overlapping jurisdiction and authority, especially in relation to Indigenous peoples. As the scope of this review was specific to B.C., Recommendations have not been directed to the federal government. However, tangible and urgent action is needed by the federal government, as well as national health organizations, to address Indigenous-specific racism in the health care system.

The Review has identified a number of areas where federal actions could be helpful to eliminate all forms of discrimination against Indigenous peoples. Examples of such necessary action include:

  1. Federal legislation to specifically implement the UN Declaration to bring the federal laws, policies and practices in conformity with the Indigenous human rights, principles and standards in the UN Declaration.
  2. Federal Indigenous-specific health legislation and other legislative amendments which explicitly make cultural safety a desired outcome or requirement of quality within Canada’s health care system, affirming Indigenous peoples’ individual and collective rights to health, facilitate Indigenous authority over their health services, and assure consistency with the minimum standards in the UN Declaration.
  3. Federal health regulatory standards that address anti-racism, cultural humility and trauma- informed practices.
  4. Active co-operation by the federal government consistent with the standards of the UN Declaration to make necessary changes to the First Nations health governance structure in B.C.
  5. Direct support by national health organizations to identify measures and tools to address

December 1, 2020


In Plain Sight Report

Métis Nations of BC is calling on the B.C. government to urgently implement all the recommendations found in Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s report…and its 24 recommendations in an expedited timeframe. This includes implementing the recommendation, “that the Ministry of Health establish a structured senior level health relationship table with MNBC, and direct health authorities to enter into Letters of Understanding with MNBC and Métis Chartered Communities that establish a collaborative relationship with clear and measurable outcomes.” The report found that B.C. needs to expand Métis participation in health decision-making and that the expectations of health authorities to engage with MNBC are not widespread or codified. MNBC is calling on the Ministry of Health and Minister Adrian Dix to establish the BC-Métis Nation Health Leadership Table in the first six months of 2021. While the First Nations Health Authority receives an annual budget of $60 million – with no mandate to care for Métis people – MNBC only receives $200,000 annually to service the health needs of over 90,000 citizens and self-identified Métis across the province.

July 9, 2020


In Plain Sight Report

Government of BC – An independent investigation into Indigenous-specific racism in British Columbia’s health care system was launched today by former judge and provincial child advocate Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. Appointed by Health Minister Adrian Dix on June 19 after highly disturbing allegations of racism in B.C. Emergency rooms came to light, Turpel-Lafond has now assembled her team for the “Addressing Racism” investigation, established her terms of reference and launched a survey to collect and assess the experiences of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people when they access health care. “Our task is to address the specific incidents that have been reported, as well as to gauge the levels of systemic and individual racism that Indigenous people face when using the health care system in general,” Turpel-Lafond said. After examining the systemic racism that occurs in the health system, the investigation will make a number of recommendations designed to prompt necessary improvements.

June 19, 2020


In Plain Sight Report

NationTalk – First Nations, Métis and Inuit patients seeking emergency medical services in British Columbia are often assumed to be intoxicated and denied medical assessments, contributing to worsening health conditions resulting in unnecessary harm or death. This is according to information obtained by Métis Nation BC and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres. Additionally, the parties have notified the First Nations Health Authority of this concern.

Participants within the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training program detail thousands of cases of racism in healthcare, resulting in the harm of Indigenous patients. In a recent training session, a program participant disclosed a common game played within B.C. hospital emergency rooms, where physicians, nurses and other staff try to guess the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of Indigenous patients. The winner of the game guesses closest to the BAC – without going over.

The Province of B.C. has yet to enforce standardized anti-racism training for health service workers. BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and Métis Nation of BC – Indigenous leadership are calling upon the Ministry of Health to accept the following four recommendations:

  1. A public inquiry into Indigenous specific racism in health care in B.C with a focus on hospitals and emergency departments.
  2. Ensure that all front-line staff are required to take mandatory First Nations, Métis and Inuit training that results in increased health professional personal accountability in the delivery of safe health care.
  3. Commit to structural and systemic changes to dismantle indigenous specific racism to ensure culturally safe health care experiences for Indigenous people.
  4. Ensure that Indigenous governments play a stronger role in the development and implementation of anti-racism programs and training throughout BC.

February 4, 2021


In Plain Sight: Supplemental Report

Toronto Star – Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond released a supplemental data report Thursday that shows Indigenous people in B.C. are much more likely to feel unsafe in health-care settings, to feel they are never included in care decisions and to feel they receive poorer service than others.

“Taken together, these … reports clearly demonstrate the need for immediate, principled and comprehensive efforts to eliminate all forms of prejudice and discrimination against Indigenous Peoples in the B.C. health-care system,” she writes in the new document. The report comes as Indigenous people across B.C. are speaking out, including the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola where hundreds of COVID-19 vaccine doses were abruptly withdrawn and a woman in Kitimat whose baby was stillborn after she says a hospital turned her away.

Her supplemental report is based on results of surveys, submissions to her team and patient complaints, as well as hard data on how Indigenous people use health care and the outcomes they experience. Almost 9,000 people directly shared their perspectives through surveys and submissions, while about 185,000 Indigenous individuals are reflected in the health sector data.

Indigenous survey respondents were significantly more likely to feel unsafe in health facilities. For example, in emergency rooms, 16 per cent felt “not at all safe” and 57 per cent felt “somewhat unsafe,” compared with five and 38 per cent of non-Indigenous people, respectively. Other findings include:

  • 23% of Indigenous respondents reported they “always” received poorer service than others
  • 24 per cent treated as though they were dishonest,
  • 26 per cent treated as if they are drunk or asked about substance abuse and
  • 14 per cent treated like bad parents.
  • Some 67 per cent of Indigenous respondents reported they had experienced discrimination from health-care staff based on ancestry, compared to 5% of non-Indigenous respondents.
  • Only 16 per cent of all Indigenous respondents reported never having been discriminated against for any reason listed while receiving health care.

Turpel-Lafond’s team also conducted a survey of health-care workers, of which 35 per cent said they had witnessed racism or discrimination directed to Indigenous patients, family or friends. The number increased to 59 per cent for Indigenous health-care workers who responded.

March 2, 2021


Infant mortality and youth suicide

The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (MACY) and the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba – submitted a report that discusses “the international and national human rights framework as it relates to structural inequalities and Indigenous children’s right to continuous improvement of health with a particular focus on infant mortality and youth suicide in Manitoba, Canada. Specific issues raised for discussion include …the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person, access to justice (preamble, and articles, 6, 7, 8, 22 and 43) and non-discrimination, health, housing (as part of the right to an adequate standard of living and non-discrimination), culture, and education (articles 14, 17, 21)”.

The focus on Manitoba includes:

  • one in two First Nations children, one in four Metis, one in four Inuit, and one in six non-Indigenous children in Manitoba live in poverty, all higher than in Canada overall.
  • Indigenous infants account for between 20-30% of live births in Manitoba between 2009 and 2018, but represent at least 57% of sleep-related infant deaths
  • Only 24 of 63 First Nations communities in Manitoba have maternal-child health programs, some of which are ‘pilot’ programs that lack permanent or sustainable funding.
  • 20 of 22 suicides of female youth between 2012 and 2019 and who were involved with the child welfare system were Indigenous.
  • while approximately 26% of the child population in Manitoba are Indigenous, they account for approximately
  • 90% of children in the care of child and family service agencies
  • 78% of children, youth, and young adults served by the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth through ongoing advocacy supports during the 2019/20 fiscal year were Indigenous.
  • A study of the overlap between Manitoba’s child welfare and justice systems found that close to one-third of children in care were later charged with a crime as a youth (age 12-17). This study confirmed that the child welfare system in Manitoba serves as a ‘pipeline’ to the youth criminal justice system
  • Indigenous youth in Manitoba are 16 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous youth
  • In 2016, only 48% of Indigenous students graduated high school “on-time”, compared to 86% of their non-Indigenous counterparts

Recommendations form the “Joint Submission to the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People”: Study on the rights of the Indigenous child under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”

ONE: Take steps to include the voices, experiences, perspectives, and testimony of Indigenous children and youth to the largest extent possible in any decision or work that may affect them, as enshrined by Article 12 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

TWO: Acknowledge the ongoing work towards reconciliation and the fulfillment of Indigenous children’s rights in Canada by evaluating and commenting on the Government of Canada’s compliance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Actions designed to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation in Canada and recommendations made in Honouring the Truth, Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

THREE: Recognize the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples by highlighting Indigenous-led initiatives to fulfill the rights of Indigenous children including maternal- child health programs and youth suicide prevention programs that provide children with the culturally appropriate services they are entitled to receive.

FOUR: Through the development of this study, create opportunities for Indigenous practitioners and advocates around the world to come together to generate connections, and share information and best practices

FIVE: In order to understand the differential experiences of Indigenous children and youth, the challenges they face, as well as existing gaps in the social determinants of health, it is imperative that governments systematically collect data on Indigenous ancestry, with attention to the principles of ownership, control, access, possession (OCAP®) and principles of Ethical Métis Research. Currently, this gap in information prevents a full understanding of the structural inequalities facing Indigenous children and youth.

SIX: Ensure ethical considerations are upheld and respected in all aspects of this study and any research or data collection involving Indigenous Peoples, and Indigenous children in particular, conducted by governments and other parties. Ethical considerations concerning research for and by Indigenous Peoples should involve free prior informed consent on a collective and individual basis; principles are followed to ensure Indigenous ownership, control, access, and possession of their own data and information; and all research should be respectful and benefit Indigenous Peoples.

SEVEN: Examine the role of fiscal policies that continuously underfund services for Indigenous infants, children, and their families (including schools, mental health services, and prenatal and postnatal supports) as a barrier for the realization of Indigenous children’s right to health.

EIGHT: Recognize the centrality of addressing Indigenous child poverty at the national level as a necessary condition of fulfilling Indigenous children’s right to non- discrimination and health.

NINE: Prioritize analysis of the role of the child welfare system and ongoing apprehension of Indigenous children from their families as this is in direct violation of the right of Indigenous children to a family life, to health, to culture, and to a future.

May 27, 2022


Manitoba First Nations leaders declare State of Emergency in Health Services in the north

NationTalk: (Brokenhead Ojibway Nation) – Late afternoon May 24, 2022, the Keewatinohk Inniniw Okimowin Council (KIOC) of elected leaders unanimously declared a state of emergency on health services. The elected leaders are Chiefs and Councilors who collectively represent 23 First Nations in Manitoba’s north. The motion calling for the declaration came about during a two-day meeting of the KIOC, held to make important decisions on health transformation.

Discussion turned to the critical nursing shortage that will impact all 21 of Manitoba’s federal nursing stations, placing First Nations people in actual peril because of the much longer wait times to be seen in the Nursing Stations where a minimum standard of care is already stretched to breaking.

While the nursing stations are not to close, the ‘open to emergencies’ only policy has been put in place by the federal government across Manitoba for at least the week of May 16 to 23, 2022. What this means is that the number of nurses able to support a community is so low that they can only support emergencies. “Who would bring their family member there knowing that the services are stretched that thin? To protest, we should gather a busload of patients from our communities and bring them south all at once to access services” stated Chief Monias, Interim Chair, KIOC and further that “We are calling on the government to come to a round table and discuss solutions immediately”.

Nursing Stations dilemma a symptom of system neglect akin to Jordan’s Principle for all First Nations people.

Dr. Barry Lavallee, Chief Executive Officer of Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin (KIM) Inc. applauded the declaration;

  • Nursing shortages,
  • shortages in physician-led care,
  • limited access to diagnostic care,
  • lack of appropriate health infrastructure in communities, and
  • the lack of a coordinated systems-based response for urgent and emergent issues like the nursing shortage

– all of this is racism, full stop, and has been worsening instead of improving over time. System leaders have nothing to be proud of and should really hang their heads in shame. Many will try to lay blame on the pandemic but that is only one of the contributing factors. The truth is that although the pandemic has shed new light on gaps in care and really, the ‘Jordan’s Principle’ of health services for First Nations people overall – it is time for systems to stand in discomfort and take the hits for their neglect due to racism.”

A roundtable discussion with the federal and provincial governments to address immediate, short term, medium- and long-term solutions for issues such as but not limited to:

  • Long standing shortages of nurses and physicians for northern First Nations, ambulatory and medical transportation related issues, and a lack of preventative health care
  • Health infrastructure on reserves which is long overdue for modernization
  • Modernization of the 1964 Agreement
  • Improving the federal and provincial integrated response system for urgent and emergent crises
  • Systemic racism

“With respect to KIM and ‘taking over’ First Nations health services in the north, we are eager for this to happen. We are short staffed in our community – with nursing as well as security. When we go to Thompson there is nothing there to look after patients that need special care. When we travel to Winnipeg or Brandon, the care is available. Why can’t we get the same care in Thompson?”, Councillor Cheyenne Spence, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation.

“It is a mess. This is systemic racism. Thompson General Hospital has become a triage center. We need to look at ways to take control – make our own policies, services, and facilities up north instead of sending them down south. As peoples, we are still ‘in care’ and must change that.” Councillor Donnie McKay, Pimicikamak.

“Our nursing station has a certain number of FTE nurses allocated, but we never hit that number. They sometimes work from 8:00 am in the morning to 4:00 am the next morning. This is very concerning. We would not want a nurse who did double time to assess patients. There could be misdiagnosis and medication errors. These issues place lives at risk”, Councillor Shirley Robinson, Pimicikamak.

November 17, 2022

Fed. Govt.

Medical advice shouldn’t be different for Indigenous kids

The Globe and Mail: Tony Talaga – When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck, remote and northern Indigenous communities – which already lacked doctors, properly stocked and supplied health clinics and clean running water – had to scramble. First Nations leaders had to create public-health systems out of thin air. And in Northern Ontario, it seemed like the region was headed into another health crisis that would disproportionately hurt Indigenous people.

Instead, in January, 2021, there was a swift health response, thanks in large part to Nishnawbe Aski Nation leaders, who pulled together a team of physicians, nurses, government officials, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Rangers to organize or deliver vaccinations to remote fly-in communities. This unprecedented, three-phase effort was called Operation Remote Immunity.

That operation showed us what is possible. As Canadians worked with First Nations to fight COVID-19, traditional silos in medicine crumbled; health care professionals from across the province hopped on planes to communities such as Bearskin Lake and Moose Factory, which they may not have otherwise ventured to or even heard about. They had the opportunity to see, firsthand, the inequitable realities of Canada’s “universal” health care system for First Nations peoples.

Surely, then, the Canadian public is now more aware of the immense logistical challenges involved in life in remote communities. These are places without so much basic infrastructure, including proper roads or runways, sanitation systems, ambulances, fire trucks, housing or hospitals. And surely, Operation Remote Immunity taught us enduring lessons about how to come together to consider the most vulnerable first, in future crises.

Sadly, though, those lessons have apparently vanished – just in time for the latest national health crisis.

In recent months, Canadian hospitals have become overwhelmed by three surging factors: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children, the flu and COVID-19. Many public-health officers in Canada have recommended that Canadians return to masking indoors, in an effort to protect the system from further pressure. Worse, Canadian parents and kids have also been struggling with a countrywide shortage of many children’s pain and fever medications.

But this crisis has again played out differently in northern Ontario. On Sept. 2, Laura McCluskey – an Ontario regional pharmacist for the First Nations Inuit Health Branch, which is part of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) – sent a memo to nursing staff warning of the coming children’s medication shortage. She said that with the dangerously low supply of these front line fighters of pain and fever in wee ones, nursing stations should “dispense these products judiciously” until the back order was resolved.

What was most surprising, though, was this advisory: “Please keep expired product at this time, in the event that expired product needs to be utilized.” 

Medical professionals have debated the wisdom of using medication past its due date. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, of the University Health Network, told me there is “growing data demonstrating that expiration dates have little to no impact on the utility of many medications,” and that a co-ordinated push might be coming to extend them.

However, he added that “we still have to be careful with expiration dates and go through official channels to ensure safety of the medications used; however, medication shortages will disproportionately impact northern communities.”

And indeed, that inequity is on full display in this memo, regardless of drug effectiveness. After all, there is apparently not enough data available on administering expired children’s medication, and Health Canada has advised against doing so. Two Globe and Mail health reporters were also unable to find other hospitals or associations in Canada that have recommended the practice. So why does advice seem to be different for Indigenous kids? (On Thursday, ISC spokesperson Vincent Gauthier did not deny the existence of the memo, but told The Globe and Mail that “the use of expired pain medication is not standard practice in remote and isolated nursing stations and is not being considered at this time. The use of expired medication would only be considered in extraordinary circumstances.”)

There have long been two sets of standards in a country that likes to proudly trumpet the universality of its health care system. Yet, to my knowledge, there has been no universal call to even consider the using expired medications to treat the millions of children who do not live in First Nations communities.

Our children feel the same pain as non-Indigenous ones; they require the same care. Is this the extent of what has changed about emergency planning in our health care system, even after the shocking pandemic forced us to improvise?

The nationwide crisis will also compound existing problems in remote areas. What will air ambulance services do when they can’t medically evacuate ill or injured children because the pediatric hospitals in cities are over capacity? Would it be responsible to leave the children in communities where expired meds could apparently be the emergency option?

Article 24 (2) of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says that Indigenous peoples must have the right to access the same standard of health care as non-Indigenous people. Where you live and who you are should not play a role here. And yet, apparently, it does.

September 28, 2022

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Ministers Honour Joyce Echaquan and Re-Affirm Commitment to Addressing Anti-Indigenous Racism in Canada’s Health Systems

Indigenous Services Canada: Ottawa, Ontario (September 28, 2022) – The Minister of Indigenous Services, Patty Hajdu, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Marc Miller, and the Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, issued the following statement today:

“Health care is a human right, and should be free of racism and discrimination. But the systemic discrimination and racism that Indigenous Peoples face in Canadian health care systems continues. Tragically, this has led to services that come with stigma, and has resulted in trauma and even death, as in the case of Joyce Echaquan, who recorded her treatment in an emergency room just prior to her passing.

Two years ago today, Canadians were appalled by the mistreatment that Joyce Echaquan endured while seeking medical care shortly before her death. Since that day, the Government of Canada has led action and supports to address systemic racism in health care and to foster change in systems of care that will lead to safer health services for Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

Joyce’s story revealed and amplified the racial stereotypes and bias that continue to harm First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals and communities. Her tragic and avoidable death ignited a long overdue call to address the truths that exist in our health systems and the urgency for change. In Joyce’s memory, the Atikamekw Nation created “Joyce’s Principle,” which aims to protect the right of all Indigenous Peoples to equitable access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services, as well as the right to enjoy the best possible physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Since Joyce’s passing, the federal government has funded over 50 Indigenous-led projects across the country to foster safer and more inclusive health systems. These projects are just the beginning. It will take commitment from all levels of government and all health care systems to fundamentally address ongoing systemic racism in a structural way. This is a task that must be done by leaders and included in every aspect of governance and delivery. As we continue this work with partners to eliminate systemic racism and discrimination in health care, we reflect on this anniversary as a reminder of how important this work is, and how much more remains ahead of us. Most importantly, we must lift up Joyce’s Principal and honour the life of Joyce Echaquan.”


For more information, media may contact:

Alison Murphy
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services

Media Relations
Indigenous Services Canada

Justine Leblanc
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations

Media Relations
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

June 9, 2021


Missing Indigenous Children

Montreal Gazette – The day after being appointed a special adviser to Québec on the issue of missing Indigenous children, Anne Panasuk said Wednesday she believes systemic racism exists in the province — in direct contrast to the ruling Coalition Avenir Québec’s insistence it does not. The consequences of not recognizing systemic racism are demonstrated by the fact Quebec does not have clear health care files on Indigenous communities, Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said. Ms Panasuk will advise the government on Bill 79 “An Act to authorize the communication of personal information to the families of Indigenous children who went missing or died after being admitted to an institution”.

September 7, 2021


Missing Indigenous children in Québec

Toronto Star – According to the most recent estimate of Awacak, a group which brings together bereaved families, at least 200 indigenous children have disappeared or died after being admitted to a hospital in Quebec. A number that makes sense, confirms the office of Ian Lafrenière, Quebec’s Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs. On Sept. 1, Bill 79 (An Act to authorize the communication of personal information to the families of Indigenous children who went missing or died after being admitted to an institution) take effect. The bill allows personal information to be communicated to the families – and not only to the parents – of Indigenous children who have disappeared or died following admission to a Quebec health establishment. It gives access to medical archives and those of religious congregations.

The cases of Indigenous children who disappeared or died in the same circumstances as Line were documented in the supplementary report on Quebec of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in the country in 2019. The story is almost always the same: an Indigenous child would get sick, they were sent outside the community to be treated in the nearest hospital, but never returned. And the parents were left without answers. Such cases have been reported in Quebec since the 1940s and until the late 1970s. Without commenting on any of the testimonies recounted during this report, Alain Arsenault, Awacak’s legal advisor. Arsenault affirms that in some of her files, “clues suggest” the same modus operandi as during the “’60s Scoop”, where children were taken from their families for adoption in Canada and the United States.

Bill 79 allows members of an Indigenous family to make an official request to the Family Support Team, active since Sept. 1. This team should assist families in their research. Bill 79 applies to health and social services establishments, religious organizations or congregations. It does not include residential schools, unless a resident has died after being admitted to hospital. The legislation covers the period before Dec. 31, 1992. A family can apply until September 2031. The law also gives the Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs the power to investigate in the event of a refusal to disclose “information likely to reveal the circumstances surrounding the disappearance or death of a child.” The Minister must submit an annual report no later than March 31 of each year.

April 29, 2022


Missing Indigenous Children: Initial Review of 55 missing children

Bill 79, An Act to authorize the communication of personal information to the families of Indigenous children who went missing or died after being admitted to an institution

NationTalk: During a tribute held in the community of Pakuashipi in the Côte-Nord region to the courage of the families of Indigenous children who went missing or died,  Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs Ian Lafrenière noted the submission of the first annual report on the application of the “Act to authorize the communication of personal  information to the families of Indigenous children who went missing or died after being admitted to an institution“. Accompanied by the members of the monitoring committee on the carrying out of the Act comprising representatives of Indigenous organizations and the Opposition parties, the Minister visited the community, which was the first to break the silence on the fate of its children, to symbolically submit the report to the bereaved families.

The Act came into force on September 1, 2021. It seeks to support Indigenous families in their quest to get answers concerning their children who went missing or died after being admitted to an institution prior to December 31, 1992. On February 28, 2022, six months after the Act came into force, the Minister revealed that 35 families had already approached the Direction de soutien aux familles, Anne Panasuk, the special family support advisor, or the Association des familles Awacak to formulate requests to search for 55 children. The government is determined to do all that it can to assist the families and those who follow them in their quest for the truth.

Through the legislation, the Québec government wishes to help the families and their communities shed light on the fate of their children. Everyone concerned hopes in this way to grasp the circumstances in which the children went missing or died, find out where they are, if they are still alive, or learn about their burial place.

October 12, 2022

Fed. Govt.

Nations of Blackfoot Confederacy File Claim Against Alberta Persons with Development Disabilities

NationTalk: On September 1, 2022, the Siksika Chief and Council, on behalf of Siksika Nation, Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe) and Piikani Nation, filed a complaint against Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) for systemic discrimination against adult members of the Blackfoot Nations living with developmental disabilities through the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program.  The Claim has been filed with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

The basis of the complaint includes continuous discrimination caused by the ISC on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, disability or an intersecting combination thereof. Through the ISC, the federal government has failed to fund and support the services necessary to enable full participation in society for First Nations adults with disabilities. Under the current regime of the services and supports available, needs of the adult members of these Blackfoot Nations are being continuously unmet.

The claim will help to establish stable and equitable funding for the creation of comprehensive and culturally appropriate programs, supports and services to meet the individualized needs the Blackfoot Nations. The Claim is also seeking the creation of transition supports and services for First Nations individuals with disabilities who are transitioning from childhood to adulthood, including those who are in receipt of services from their school or Jordan’s Principle related Programs. Finally, the claim is seeking individual compensation for all victims of the discrimination described in the complaint.

The three nations of Siksika, Kainai and Piikani comprise of the Blackfoot Confederacy located within the Canadian Borders. Each of the Blackfoot Nations in Canada have reserves on the traditional land of the Blackfoot Confederacy, in Treaty 7 territory (together, the “Blackfoot Nation Reserves”). The Kainai Nation has a population of approximately 13,000 members. The Kainai Reserve is located in southern Alberta and is bordered by Fort Macleod, Lethbridge and Cardston. The Piikani Nation has a population of approximately 4000 members, and its reserve is located in southern Alberta, west of Lethbridge and bordered by Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek. The Siksika Nation has a population of approximately 7800 people, and a reserve located in southern Alberta bordered by Vulcan County, Wheatland County, and the County of Newell.

For more information, please contact:

Allison Duck Chief

Communications Specialist

Siksika Nation Chief and Council

C: 587-227-2540

Pam Blood

Blood Tribe Communications & Community Engagement


O: 403-737-8106

C: 403-448-0490

August 8, 2022

Fed. Govt.

New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council calls for equal access to health supports for all Indigenous people

NationTalk: Fredericton, Revised – The New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council has, once again, been confronted by the federal government’s discrimination against our members. This time, the federal government’s discrimination takes the form of denying Indigenous people who live off reserves and non-status Indigenous people access to health benefits that the federal government provides to reserve residents.

A number of our members have found themselves in a situation in which they have to pay out-of-pocket for services that would get paid for by the federal government if they were reserve residents. In one case, a member who is in long-term care in a hospital, because they cannot get a room in a long-term care home, finds themselves having to pay a per diem out of their own, limited funds to remain in the hospital, even though they need 24-hour a day care. If they were a reserve resident, though, the federal government would pay their per diem for them. This is nothing more than discrimination by the federal government against Indigenous people who live off reserves.

New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council Chief Barry LaBillois pointed out that “This discrimination is leading to real harm to the health of our members. We will not just listen to stories from our members and their families about their suffering; we will not ignore their plight, the way the federal government is.” “We have to act; we have to bring the real, harmful effects of the federal government’s discrimination against our members to light. Since the federal government seems to ignore the off-reserve Indigenous people of our province, we are asking our allies among the general public to tell the federal government that this discrimination is unacceptable.” said Chief LaBillois.

In 2016, The Supreme Court of Canada decided that the federal government’s jurisdiction over “Indians and Lands reserved for the Indians” means that the federal government has the jurisdiction to serve all Indigenous people. In coming to that decision, Madame Justice Rosalie Abella, for the Court, stated that “Non-status Indians and Métis are ‘Indians’ under s. 91(24) and it is the federal government to whom they can turn.” Thus, Chief LaBillois commented that “For the federal government to tell some ‘Indians’ that they cannot receive services that the federal government provides to other ‘Indians’, simply because of their place of residence, violates the equality rights of our members. This is completely unacceptable; it is the antithesis of reconciliation, which the federal government so proudly claims it is committed to.”


For media inquiries, contact Yara Smadi, Communication Officer.Tel: 506 458 8422, E-mail:

The New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council (NBAPC) is the voice for Status and Non-Status Aboriginal Peoples who reside off-reserve in the Province of New Brunswick, providing a political voice for our members, services and programs. *************

October 5, 2022

Fed. Govt., ON

New Reports Reaffirm Trends of Poor Health Outcomes and Under-Funded System for First Nations

Under the direction of the Chiefs-in-Assembly, Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) has released its Diabetes and Childhood Vaccination Coverage reports. The reports highlight the disproportionate burden of health outcomes and health inequities within northern First Nations. SLFNHA calls for improved resources to support diabetes and vaccination programs.

“We are calling on the Federal and Provincial governments to provide us with a plan to increase supports for food security, food sovereignty, and improved health services for our northern First Nations. The burden of illness is increasing and the disparity between northern First Nations and Ontario is growing.” Janet Gordon, Acting CEO and President

Both reports reaffirm major health care gaps in First Nations, like critical staffing shortages and lack of sustainable funding that have persisted.

Findings in the Diabetes Report show that First Nations children aged 10-14 in the Sioux Lookout area were diagnosed with diabetes at twice the rate (62.5%) than the Ontario average (28.1%) in 2019. The rate of lower limb amputation among Sioux Lookout area First Nations people has doubled between 2008 and 2019, while the provincial average has trended slightly downward.

Data from the Vaccination Coverage Report shows that the inequitable health services in northern communities resulted in vaccination coverage rates falling far below provincial averages and national goals. As a result, communities are at risk of outbreaks from vaccine-preventable diseases.

The reports have been released as an urgent call-to-action to address health inequities caused by systemic racism and colonial policies that have altered the Anishinabe way of life. Data from the reports goes to 2019, just prior to the onset of the pandemic.

January 17, 2022


Niagara Health System Discrimination

Niagara Chapter-Native Women – The NCNW Board of Directors is asking for a full Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Heather Winterstein, 24, who passed away while in the care of Niagara Health System on Dec 10, 2021. We call for the Coroner’s Inquest to address the long-standing issues of discrimination against Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous Women and to fulfill the family’s wishes to ensure that this “never happens to another family”.
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.’ She says “an eerily similar story occurred when Brent Sky 32, an Ojibway man from Shoal Lake reserve, was transported 90 kilometres by ambulance to Lake of the Woods District Hospital in Kenora.” He was suffering with an extremely severe headache and painful vision. He was seen in the emergency room and sent on his way with 3 Ibuprofen pills, (readily available over the counter). He travelled back home – alone – by bus. Speaking to his parents that evening, he still complained of the headache and pain in his eyes. The following morning his father found him dead. He died of a brain bleed. This was October 27, reported in a CBC article posted on December 13, 2021, “just 3 days after Heather’s Dec. 10 death,’’ said Brant.

December 17, 2021


Niagara Health System Discrimination

Toronto Star – Niagara Ontario Health Team Planning Table (NOHT) has voiced its support for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Heather Winterstein, an Indigenous woman who collapsed and died in the emergency room at the St. Catharines site of Niagara Health.

Carol Stewart-Kirkby, co-lead for the health team, said there is a need to acknowledge systemic racism exists, confront anti-Indigenous bias and seek change. “This incident is a tragic reminder of the urgent need to work to understand how the legacy of colonization continues to impact health-care systems,” Stewart-Kirby said. “Our thoughts are focused on supporting the people most directly involved.”

Winterstein had visited the emergency room on Dec. 9. Complaining of pain, she was given Tylenol and sent home. She was brought back to the hospital by ambulance the next day, complaining of severe back pain and later died before seeing a doctor. Her family was told Heather died as the result of a strep A infection.
Niagara Health announced it would be conducting an internal investigation into Winterstein’s death and had invited her family and Indigenous leaders in Niagara to be a part of it and a broader investigation that would consider the experiences of Indigenous people in the health-care system in Niagara.

September 13, 2022


Niagara Health: Signs part of commitment to Indigenous community

Toronto Star: Visitors to Niagara Health sites across the region will notice signage on the health system’s properties in St. Catharines, Welland and Niagara Falls meant to show support for the Indigenous community.

The signs include a variety of messaging that are geared to mark Niagara Health’s second Indigenous Inclusion Month. The first was marked in 2021. 

“The statements on our lawn signs were developed by our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee as part of their planning for Niagara Health’s second annual Indigenous Inclusion Month,” said Fiona Peacefull, vice president, human resources at Niagara Health. “The statements were developed in consultation with Indigenous community partners.”

Peacefull said the signs represent a commitment being made by Niagara Health “to learning about the experiences, rich traditions and teachings of Indigenous Peoples in Canada to support a safe, culturally welcoming space for everyone who enters the hospital.”

Jennifer Dockstader, executive director of the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, considers the signs to be a step forward, albeit a small one. “It is small and hopefully not the only step,” Dockstader said. “If this is the only step, this will not prevent injury or death to Indigenous people.”

Dockstader was referring to the death of Heather Winterstein last December while waiting for care at Niagara Health’s St. Catharines site. Winterstein’s death resulted in a flurry of calls for an inquest from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups.

Niagara Health conducted an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding Heather’s death. Results of that investigation were shared with her family. The centre also held a forum where members of the Indigenous community shared stories of their experiences with the health-care system in Niagara.

“Heather Winterstein’s death highlighted so many issues of discrimination in the Niagara Health System that have existed for decades in Niagara that this is one thing that they can do now to start in the journey of changes needed to become equitable toward Indigenous people in Niagara.”

Peacefull said that in addition to the signs, Niagara Health committee will host activities throughout September that are meant to “educate, inspire and spark conversations about Indigenous communities, cultures and histories.”

The month began with drum circles at all three hospitals on Sept. 1. An Indigenous artisan market is scheduled for Sept. 14 at the St. Catharines site. Niagara Health will also mark Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30 to remember victims of the residential school system.

It is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and it will also include various internal learning opportunities throughout the month for staff and physicians.

November 2, 2022


Northern health leader says language test is a barrier to Indigenous nurses

First People’s Law: CTV News – An English proficiency test for prospective registered nurses in Manitoba, even those who receive all their education in English, is a racial barrier that disproportionately affects Indigenous people, a health official in northern Manitoba said Wednesday.

“They trained in English, they saw patients in English … and then suddenly you have this structural barrier that looks, to us, as if it’s a racial barrier to eliminate access of First Nations nurses,” Dr. Barry Lavallee said.

“This to me smells like white supremacy, affecting a policy (of) sort that actually denies access to people of colour including, particularly, First Nations people.”

The College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba, which requires the test, said it is necessary to ensure patient care.


“By requiring all applicants to demonstrate that they possess the appropriate level of English language proficiency, the college is helping to mitigate risks to the public in registered nursing practice and delivering on its statutory mandate,” the college said in a written statement.

The test is not required for nursing graduates who apply to the college within two years of completing education in English. After two years, applicants face a test of multiple sections including listening and writing.

Lavallee is chief executive officer of Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin, a not-for-profit agency that works to improve health care for First Nations citizens in Manitoba. The agency was set up by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents northern First Nation communities.

Lavallee was awarded a certificate of merit this year by the Canadian Association for Medical Education and was recognized last year by Doctors Manitoba for his work in advancing culturally-centred care.

He said Wednesday the English proficiency tests are slanted to people of European descent. “First Nations people, even if English is their first language, they still think in their own language … the way you problem-solve can be different,” he said.

Tamra Keeper, a nursing graduate from Tataskwayak Cree Nation, said she graduated in 2017 and had to take the language proficiency test when she applied to the college a few years later. She failed a few times, she said, at one point coming up just shy in the written section of the test.

“A few of the hospitals in Saskatchewan have reached out to me,” Keeper said. “They too don’t understand why I would be required to do an English exam when my education is in English.”

The Opposition New Democrats said the language test is coaxing some nurses to go to other provinces at a time when they are desperately needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The college said it is working on changes. “We are approaching the imminent implementation of a number of changes to our language proficiency policy and our processes.”

The Progressive Conservative government said the language test was brought in under the former NDP government two decades ago.

“Our government will be further strengthening health care and supporting our professionals through our comprehensive health human resources plan, which we look forward to announcing in the coming weeks,” reads a prepared statement from Health Minister Audrey Gordon’s office.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2022

April 9, 2021


Nurses told to leave First Nation during pandemic

Globe and Mail – For the past two weeks, during a global pandemic, Pikangikum First Nation – a Northern Ontario community of nearly 3,600, located along the Berens River near the Manitoba border – has operated without a fully equipped police service or access to proper medical care…On March 19, Chief Owen and the band council expelled the community’s 10-member Ontario Provincial Police force after misconduct allegations surfaced against officers, including claims of sexual and physical assault of women who had been brought into custody. An investigation into the allegations is now being conducted by the Special Investigations Unit, the body that investigates Ontario’s police.

But when the police left Pikangikum, the nurses there were also forced to leave, as per instruction by Indigenous Services Canada, or ISC. They were uprooted from their homes and patients, told to grab their bags and head out.

February 5, 2020


OHRC claims discrimination in accessing health services in Timmins

Timmins The Daily Press – On the second anniversary of the deaths of Joey Knapaysweet and Agnes Sutherland, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) announced it has filed an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) alleging discrimination based on Indigenous ancestry by public service providers in Timmins, Ontario. The February 2018 deaths of Joey Knapaysweet and Agnes Sutherland highlight the serious and sometimes tragic result of systemic discrimination against First Nations peoples in Northern Ontario. Both Joey Knapaysweet and Agnes Sutherland traveled to Timmins from Fort Albany First Nation, more than 400 km away, to access health services that were not available in their community. These circumstances left them particularly vulnerable to discrimination.

The OHRC acts in the public interest and is committed to ensuring that Indigenous peoples receive equal access to essential services consistent with their unique cultural and language needs, pursuant to the Ontario Human Rights Code and consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The OHRC is seeking a variety of public interest remedies, including requiring the respondents to:

  • Engage with Indigenous communities to understand their concerns and needs
  • Develop policies and provide training to ensure that their services are delivered in a culturally competent and safe manner, free of discrimination
  • Develop a human resources plan to promote and expand the hiring and promotion of Indigenous staff
  • Collect human rights-based data to identify problems and monitor solutions.

March 23, 2021


Premier’s racist comment – “The member flew in [to] get his vaccine, so thank you for doing that and kind of jumping the line,” Ford said. “I talked to a few chiefs that were pretty upset about that for flying into the community that he doesn’t belong to, but that’s not here nor there.” Premier Doug Ford commenting in the legislature. on March 1. In reality, Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa was invited to “lead by example” by travelling to Sandy Lake First Nation to receive his second vaccination publicly (He got his first for the same reason in Muskrat Dam First Nation). Many Indigenous people are hesitant to get a vaccine from a government that has treated them so poorly and some communities only had 10- to 20-per cent turnout. After his demonstration, Sandy Lake had an increase to 99-per-cent turnout for the second dose that same week.

“The way Ford treated me, I was floored by it,” said Mamakwa. “I thought, maybe he just doesn’t know what I was asking? Then, I started thinking about the disrespect that he has shown to Indigenous people, not just me, but also the lack of compassion and the indifference that exists there.” Mamakwa said it is the moment that confirmed his view of the premier. “What he said, it showed me the real Doug Ford,” said Mamakwa. “It’s not just an attack on me, but it’s an attack on Indigenous people.”

“The holding of racist stereotypes that we saw at Question Period, if you hold those ideas about us as First Nations people, it makes sense that our people will continue not to trust the government. To see this exhibited at the highest political level in Ontario is not acceptable.” He said it even lessens the hope that many have that there will be a solution to the deep-seated issues within First Nation communities.

November 24, 2022


Publication of a research report on free and informed consent and imposed sterilizations among First Nations and Inuit women in Quebec


Includes 9 from the participants in the study and 11 by the research team including the following:

  • Professional bodies in the medical professions:
    • Review the training offered to the medical profession on free and informed consent, particularly in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology.
    • Ask the Collège des médecins du Québec to take note of the recommendations in this research project and to adopt a rigorous action plan to tackle this issue, raise awareness among its members and prevent such acts in the future. For government bodies:
  • Federal Government
    • Respond immediately to the report by the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights on forced and coerced sterilization of persons in Canada, the first part of which was published in 2021 and the second part in July 2022.
  • Quebec government:
    • Call for an immediate end to imposed sterilization, as stipulated in the motion adopted by the National Assembly of Quebec in September 2021, along with all other forms of obstetric violence perpetrated against First Nations and Inuit girls and women in Quebec. By unanimously adopting this motion, the National Assembly has committed to condemning the practice of performing sterilization procedures on First Nations and Inuit girls and women without prior free and informed consent.

NationTalk: WENDAKE, QC – For decades, several national and public inquiries have denounced and brought to light the acts of systemic discrimination experienced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis in health care facilities in Canada and Quebec. In 2020, we once again witnessed such acts with the death of Joyce Echaquan.

Until very recently, no scientific data was available in Quebec to assess the extent of the phenomenon among First Nations and Inuit women, to better understand the circumstances in which free and informed consent is not respected, and to know the impacts of this violation of rights on women’s lives.

In the spring of 2021, a research project on free and informed consent and imposed sterilizations among First Nations and Inuit women in Quebec was publicly launched.

This is the first research in Quebec to document the imposed sterilizations of First Nations and Inuit women.

Data collection
To draw a specific portrait of this issue in Quebec, the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) and the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT) have combined their knowledge while partnering with many representatives of First Nations, Inuit and other organizations.

Between May 2021 and January 2022, First Nations and Inuit women in Quebec, aged 18 and over, who believe they have been sterilized without their consent or been subjected to obstetric violence, were asked to share their testimonies in a confidential, respectful and safe space.

The data collection made it possible to collect testimonies from people from many different nations and peoples. According to the testimonies obtained, the last case of imposed sterilization recorded in Quebec dates from 2019.

Calls to action and recommendations
Four major findings emerge from the testimonies received: the undermining of the free and informed consent of patients; mistrust, fears, and avoidance of health services; differential treatment in hospitals; and the ages of the patients and the circumstances of sterilization.

In support of the findings and recommendations stemming from this research, the Chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) mobilized by adopting a declaration of commitment that denounces these practices and demands that they cease immediately within the Quebec health and social services system. The AFNQL, the FNQLHSSC and many partners will continue their efforts to ensure that these practices do not happen anymore and that all First Nations and Inuit women are treated with respect and dignity.

“This research has made it possible to reveal the high degree of colonial violence of an odious and little-known reality, stemming from genocide, in a context as intimate as that of gynaecological and obstetrical care for our First Nations and Inuit mothers and sisters. The imposed sterilization suffered by Indigenous women is a violation of their physical and psychological integrity as well as a theft of their fundamental right to bear children. The analysis of the testimonies collected has unfortunately led to the conclusion of the presence of systemic racism in the public services in Quebec towards the First Nations and Inuit. The AFNQL salutes the work of the research team and wishes to recognize the immense courage of these women for having shared their words in complete confidence in order to succeed in breaking the silence on non-consensual and imposed interventions.” – Chief Ghislain Picard

“Indigenous peoples come from cultures with holistic fundamental structures and values. Each has an important and sacred role within their community. Women constitute the foundation of Indigenous communities, they are the givers of life and play a key role in passing on our languages, cultures, teachings and traditions, while honouring our connection to the Earth as people. Cutting this connection with motherhood also means cutting these connections and this cultural continuity for many.” – Chief Adrienne Jérôme

“We must come together in order to implement culturally safe practices. Men play an equally crucial role: we must take action by refusing this kind of treatment regardless of the environment and by showing respectful behaviour for women in all spheres of daily life.”
– Derek Montour

Access the results of this research now by reading the report:
consult report

For more information, visit:

For further information: Sources: Catherine Bérubé-Leblanc, UQAT, Information Officer,, 819-762-0971, extension 2079; Zani Boillat, FNQLHSSC, Communications and Social Media Advisor,, 418-842-1540, extension 2304; Marie-Céline Einish, AFNQL, Communication Advisor,, 418-254-4620

September 26, 2022


Quebec’s Indigenous sensitivity training falls short, say health-care workers

Training sparked by Joyce Echaquan’s death called ‘superficial’ and ‘cringe-worthy’

Thousands of people took part in a rally in support of Joyce Echaquan in Trois-Rivieres, Que., last year, demanding ‘Justice for Joyce.’ (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

CBC: As the second anniversary of Joyce Echaquan’s death approaches this week, Indigenous health professionals say the measures taken by the Quebec government to address racism and discrimination in medical facilities have been inadequate. 

Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw mother of seven, died in a Joliette, Que., hospital in 2020 after filming herself being subjected to insulting comments from staff.

Quebec’s ministry of health and social services (MSSS) developed compulsory training for all its health-care workers after a coroner’s report found racism and discrimination contributed to her death.

However, Glenda Sandy, a Naskapi-Cree nurse from Kawawachikamach, Que., says the training does little to combat racism, prejudices or harmful misconceptions in the province’s health-care system. “This does more harm than good,” Sandy said of the training. 

Family members want to know exactly how and why Joyce Echaquan, right, died while in hospital. (Facebook)

Originally developed for civil servants, the 90-minute online awareness training on Indigenous realities was made available by the MSSS in June 2021 with the goal to “improve access and continuity to culturally secure and relevant services for First Nations and Inuit.”

CBC News received access to the training from the MSSS. The first module on history and settlement focuses on creation stories, the fur trade, treaties, assimilation policies, the Indian Act, and residential schools. It also delves into the Bering Strait theory — which recent studies have put into doubt — that migration to North America occurred when people walked across a land bridge from Asia thousands of years ago.

“It honestly felt like a high school history class,” said Sandy, who works as a nurse advisor in the public health department of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services. She described the content as cringe-worthy and superficial, noting how few Indigenous perspectives and voices were included compared to Québécois professors.

Glenda Sandy is a Naskapi and Cree nurse from Kawawachikamach, Que. (Marika Wheeler/CBC)

“I timed it and there was less than two minutes for the creation story and more than five for a non-Indigenous archeologist talking about the migration of people thousands and thousands of years ago,” said Sandy.

“Having non-Indigenous experts telling our story undermines and continues to put Indigenous people at an inferior level.”

The second module focuses on best practices to adopt for vocabulary and toponymy, and includes a video montage of testimonies on how to better relationships with Indigenous peoples.

A module on best practices incorrectly lists Indigenous language words for ‘thank you.’ (MSSS)

It also includes factual errors in a section on how to say hello and thank you in the 11 Indigenous languages in Quebec. The training states incorrectly that “migwech” is how to say “thank you” in Inuktitut. It also uses outdated terminology like “Malecite” and “Micmac.”

Lack of cultural safety

Dr. Darlene Kitty, a Cree family physician from Chisasibi, Que., said she was disappointed with the way the training was done.

She wrote a letter to the board of directors of the McGill University Health Centre, expressing concern with the absence of reference to the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Viens Commission, and the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“I think they have good intentions, but you cannot learn all about Indigenous people in one module,” said Kitty. “It has to be an ongoing journey and has to be more interactive. It’s not just listening to videos and seeing some slides.”

She said there are two big aspects absent from the training: cultural safety and cultural humility — principles that go beyond awareness, sensitivity, and competency by incorporating political, social and historical contexts of a culture.

Dr. Darlene Kitty is a family physician from Chisasibi, Que. (T.Philiptchenko)

Cultural humility is a self-reflective process on a relationship between Indigenous patients and a professional, she said.

The Viens Commission, which looked into the treatment of First Nations and Inuit in Quebec by the public service, called for health and social service network institutions to develop, in co-operation with Indigenous peoples, services and programs based on cultural safeguard principles.

It’s also enshrined in Joyce’s Principle, a document created by the council of the Atikamekw Nation and the Atikamekw Council of Manawan aimed at guaranteeing that Indigenous people have equitable access to health and social services without discrimination.

The training does not mention Echaquan at all.

58 per cent of employees completed training

As of Sept. 21, 183,844 health-care workers have completed the training, representing approximately 58 per cent of the network.

During a provincial election debate organized by the Assembly of First Nations Quebec Labrador (AFNQL) last week, outgoing CAQ Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière expressed pride in the “good progress” his party made with the training. 

“We did not wait, we did not sit on our hands. We made several changes on the ground to the cultural safety guide that was written with First Nations,” he said.

The MSSS said in an emailed statement to CBC News and Radio-Canada that the training is a result of two-plus years of work and was developed with the involvement of “several well-known members of Indigenous communities, university researchers and certain civil servants.”

“Their work was submitted to an interdepartmental working committee, responsible for verifying the factual accuracy and completeness of the information, and then submitted to an Indigenous advisory committee,” said Marie-Hélène Émond, with MSSS media relations. 

‘Checking off a box’

Dr. Samir Shaheen-Hussain, a Montreal physician, wrote the book Fighting for a Hand to Hold: Confronting Medical Colonialism against Indigenous Children in Canada. He questions the relevance and effectiveness of the training, without it recognizing the history of colonialism in producing the inequalities and inequities in health care. “There’s huge, longstanding generations of historical baggage, of medical colonialism, that we bring with us as people who are working in health care that has to be undone,” said Shaheen-Hussain.

Dr. Samir Shaheen-Hussain is a Montreal pediatric emergency physician and assistant professor at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine. He was one of the co-founders of the #aHand2Hold campaign. (Submitted by MUHC)

Residential schools, he said for example, are discussed in the training but it omits how medical establishments, scientists, and health-care providers played a role in the system. Training must address that history, he said, and be specific to the context of health care.  “The danger is basically checking off a box,” said Shaheen-Hussain. 

“It’s actually going to be harmful because people are going to be coming out of this training that has this government endorsement thinking that the knowledge that’s being imparted is the truth with a capital ‘T.'”

As for Sandy, she hopes the training will be revised to include Indigenous people voicing their perspectives and experiences in the health-care system. “I’m a nurse. I know how to navigate that system and that does not exempt me from feeling fear,” she said.

“When I walk into a hospital setting, there is fear. You’re unsure whether you’re going to be heard or listened to.”

January 28, 2021

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Racism against Indigenous womern

Native Women’s Association of Canada – At a two-day meeting at which the issue of anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s healthcare systems will be addressed by federal, provincial, and territorial governments as well as representatives of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit, NWAC is not being permitted to give more broadly based opening remarks Wednesday, along with other male-led National Indigenous Organizations. Had NWAC been permitted to speak at the meeting’s opening, said Ms. Whitman, NWAC president “we would have explained that Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse persons are disproportionately affected by systemic racism and violence in healthcare.” Instead, NWAC’s remarks the following day will be confined to the two narrower questions put by the government around “identifying diversity and intersectionality actions”.

The problem of racism in healthcare delivery moved to the forefront of national consciousness last year when Canadians heard the horrific and discriminatory remarks directed at Joyce Echaquan, an Indigenous woman, as she lay in her deathbed at a hospital in Quebec. “It is Indigenous women who have been subjected to forced sterilizations. It is Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people who have been the targets of violence that a National Inquiry found to be a genocide, and which forces many of us to seek medical treatment,” said Ms. Whitman.

“It is a problem to which we, at NWAC, have given much thought because it so profoundly affects our members,” she said. “We will be offering some ideas about ways to tackle racism in healthcare settings during the five minutes we have been allotted at the meeting on Thursday. But we would like the government to demonstrate that it is just as interested in hearing the voices of Indigenous women on this issue as it is in hearing the voices of Indigenous men.”

The experiences of Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse persons in the healthcare system are not the same as those of men. Success in defeating racism depends on our ability to recognize each other as inextricably linked partners in this task

February 3, 2021


Racism in Winnipeg Fire Dept.

Southern Chiefs Organization – SCO is asking Mayor Brian Bowman along with Fire and Paramedic Services Chief, John Lane, and all relevant officials to take immediate disciplinary action as it relates to an incident of systemic racism. City of Winnipeg firefighters ignored repeated requests for help from a paramedic who was trying to administer care to an Indigenous woman who had been stabbed in the throat. The incident occurred in October of last year. The third-party probe also revealed the firefighters failed to provide medical care to the patient and delayed transportation of the patient to the hospital. The report goes on to show that one of the firefighters who then rode in the ambulance with the victim continued to refuse to assist with her care.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, during interviews with the investigator, one of the firefighters repeatedly referred to the incident as “just another call in the North End” and claimed that “Black Lives Matter had made martyrs out of career criminals.” SCO is in the midst of revealing even more incidents of systemic racism. A soon to be released survey takes a hard look at racism in healthcare. Initial findings reveal an overwhelmingly consistent pattern of discrimination, neglect, and even abuse. An astounding 92% of survey respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement that “racism is a problem in Manitoba’s healthcare system.” More than half of respondents are deterred from seeking medical help due to experiences of racism within the health care system.

June 27, 2022


Reproductive control of Indigenous women continues around the world, say survivors and researchers

Survivors of forced sterilization and coerced contraception from Canada, Peru and Indonesia will meet with researchers to share stories, heal and advocate for change.

University of Alberta: The full extent of reproductive control practices around the world is not known, but they have been historically — and continue to be — targeted at Indigenous, poor and migrant women, according to principal investigator Denise Spitzer, professor in the School of Public Health and former Canada Research Chair in Gender, Migration and Health.

“This non-consensual control over a woman’s reproduction is a continuum of colonial violence, whether it’s part of the past or the times that we’re in now,” says steering committee member Josie Auger, associate professor at Athabasca University and author of My People’s Blood: Indigenous Sexual Health Recovery.

“Indigenous peoples, who are vulnerable and marginalized, are looked at as the other and over time, have been institutionalized in prisons, Indian hospitals and mental institutions (where such practices have been carried out),” says Auger, an elected councillor for the Bigstone Cree Nation from 2014 to 2018. 

Physical and psychological scars

An estimated 200,000 to 350,000 women in Peru were forcibly sterilized in the 1990s under former president Alberto Fujimori and some are still seeking redress through the courts. 

“The idea was that you would control the reproductive capacities of Indigenous women as a way to control population and to somehow improve the economic development of the country,” says Spitzer. “The scars left behind are both physical and psychological.”

Some of the women faced partner violence and marriage breakdown as a result of their sterilization, Spitzer says. They lost the potential economic support of children and never had the opportunity to pass on their culture and language to the next generation. Their fundamental human right to decide whether to be a parent was taken away. 

In Indonesia in the 1990s, women were forcibly injected with a long-term contraceptive. Today, recruitment agencies compel Indonesian migrant workers to accept a long-term injectable contraceptive as a requirement of overseas deployment and they can be deported if they become pregnant. 

In Canada, Indigenous women were forcibly sterilized under various historic government policies including Alberta’s Sexual Sterilization Act, which was in force from 1928, when the eugenics movement was gaining momentum, until 1972. At that time Indigenous people represented about 2.5 per cent of the population but made up 25 per cent of those who were sterilized, according to Auger. 

A large number of sterilizations happened in Indian hospitals, where many women were forced to sign while in labour or otherwise medically vulnerable.

Reports of the practice continued long after the official policies were rescinded. And though coercive sterilization is recognized as a human rights violation, it is still not illegal under Canada’s Criminal Code. In 2017 Senator Yvonne Boyer and physician Judith Bartlett published their findings on allegations of coerced tubal ligations at Saskatoon hospitals. More than 100 women from across Canada are now part of a class action suit for forced sterilizations that occurred between 2000 and 2010. 

“This is the effect of colonization on our bodies. How can we have self-determination and sovereignty if we don’t have self-determination of even our sexual experiences and reproduction?” Auger asks.

Giving survivors a voice

The summit will involve three days of storytelling, ceremony and art, culminating in a public exhibit at the Whiskeyjack Art House on August 19, which may include photovoice, weaving, film, dance and other art.

“Everything that we are doing together has a healing orientation,” says Spitzer. “We will share stories to collectively analyze what is going on and take what we’ve learned back to the communities — to women who are survivors, but also to policy makers and to health professionals.”

The international research team includes survivors, advocates, doctors and academics from the University of Alberta, Hong Kong, Peru and Indonesia. Both Auger and Spitzer say medical education will be critical to making change and making sure Indigenous women who share these experiences are heard and believed. 

“We need to find ways to educate physicians about the pernicious ideas that underpin this practice and make them aware that this isn’t just something historical, it’s not isolated,” says Spitzer. “It’s happening now and it is really entrenched in racism and misogyny.”

The summit is the culmination of the first year of a three-year project, funded by the Kule Institute for Advanced Study, with additional funding from the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation through the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute, a Killam Cornerstone Grant and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Connection Grant

The research agenda will be led by the survivors themselves. “We will spend time talking, laughing, crying, creating art together, whatever it takes,” Spitzer says. “It’s those good relationships that are really integral to doing good research.”

“Creating life is a gift that must be carried on in order for these cultures to survive,” says Auger.  “If only people could open their hearts and understand what it’s like (for survivors of reproductive coercion).” “Their choices were taken away.”

May 25, 2022


Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health and Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition report finds systemic racism in Ontario Health Care

“The conclusions in this report are horrific but unfortunately, not surprising. Indigenous-specific racism is embedded in Canada’s colonial history, and only by taking responsibility can we achieve better health outcomes for Indigenous peoples in this country,” says Wabano’s Executive Director Allison Fisher. “And the time to take responsibility and swift action is now.”

The findings of anti-Indigenous racism are highlighted in the Coalition’s comprehensive report from the Share Your Story research project, entitled Indigenous-Specific Racism & Discrimination in Health Care Across the Champlain Region. The report uses the experiences and eye-witness accounts of more than 200 Indigenous people who sought health care services across the Champlain region to illustrate and highlight deeply embedded racist and stereotypical attitudes. “These stories of racism within the health care system are our truth.

Our people deserve to be able to speak our truth and we deserve to be heard,” says Ms. Fisher. The truth is that the report’s findings are shocking. Non-Indigenous health care providers working in hospital emergency departments and maternity wards especially, in paramedic services, and in community settings like clinics view Indigenous people as:

  • racially inferior;
  • diseased,
  • addicted,
  • mentally unwell;
  • a burden;
  • angry and aggressive; and
  • bad parents. 

Startlingly, the highest frequency of both overt and covert racism, negative stereotypes, and discrimination in the region occurs in hospital emergency departments and maternity wards (70.8% in Ottawa and 65.2% in rural communities), followed by community health clinic settings and paramedics.

The report outlines the following unsettling findings:

  • 76% of participants felt they could have received better service if they were able to hide their Indigenous identity
  • 26% of all reported incidents of anti-Indigenous racism also included one or more types of discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability
  • 78% reported that they sometimes or always experience anti-Indigenous racism in the health care system
  • 59% felt their experiences of racism and discrimination had negatively impacted their physical well-being
  • 73% felt their experiences of racism and discrimination had negatively impacted their mental well-being

The report concludes with 27 recommendations divided into seven themes, with additional recommendations couched within each theme:

  • Recommendation 1: Ownership (Courage)
  • Recommendation 2: Commitment to Equity & Collaboration (Respect)
  • Recommendation 3: Expectations (Truth)
  • Recommendation 4: Standards (Love)
  • Recommendation 5: Accountability (Humility)
  • Recommendation 6: Oversight (Honesty)
  • Recommendation 7: Continual Improvement and Renewal (Wisdom)

In addition to launching the report, the Coalition and Wabano have issued a declaration, asking the leaders of each political party in Ontario to sign, and commit to effecting systemic change. “These deeply embedded stereotypes continue to harm Indigenous people today. The institutions of power have the responsibility and duty to provide good health care, to also commit and make the necessary change, to stop the racist abuse. If we don’t, Indigenous people will continue to suffer harm,” says Ms. Fisher.