Current Problems

Health (18-24)

FSIN appoints ombudsperson to investigate racism in health care

October 5, 2023

Dianne Lafond selected for the first-of-its-kind position in the country

A woman can be seen smiling.
Dianne Lafond has been appointed as the FSIN’s first health ombudsperson. (CBC News)

CBC Indigenous: The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) has selected a health ombudsperson to work against racism and discrimination against Indigenous people in the health-care system.

Dianne Lafond, who was born and raised on Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, has been selected for the job. In an announcement Tuesday, she said she is humbled and honoured to hold the position.  “As First Nations Indigenous people, we’re human beings put here by the creator to be treated equally. It breaks my heart that our people continue to suffer,” Lafond said as she made her speech. 

She said that the creation of the ombudsperson office is important because she doesn’t want to see Indigenous children, grandchildren and yet-to-be-born children endure what previous generations had to go through. “I just can’t fathom how people can have hate in their heart for another human being based on their skin colour,” she said. 

A woman can be seen wearing black and red clothes, she has glasses and red earrings.
Dianne Lafond, who was born and raised on Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, will investigate racism and discrimination in the health-care system in her role as ombudsperson. (CBC News)

Lafond told a personal story about the mistreatment of Indigenous People in the health-care system. She said her 29-year-old son almost died because a hospital stereotyped him as an alcoholic. 

Lafond said she used her voice as a mother to get the doctors to run more tests and find out why her son had a liver disease. Once they did a biopsy, they found that he was born with a gene that caused the disease.  Her son was put on the transplant list and got a new liver in February this year. She said he is now thriving. 

Lafond said Indigenous people deserve good health care as much as any other person.  “We’ve been oppressed for many, many years, our voices have been silenced, our culture has been silenced. We’re in a shift,” she said. 

She said the new office is a safe space where Indigenous people can tell the stories of what they’ve experienced and the office can support them by elevating their voices. 

The office will investigate, assist with filing a formal complaint to the regulatory board if needed and look for a resolution. If the investigation concludes that there has been malpractice, it is up to the complainant to get legal advice from a lawyer. 

The office will also make recommendations to relevant health bodies, including the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and others, depending on the complaint.

A man in a black jacket with sunglasses on.
FSIN Vice-Chief David Pratt said health-care workers that don’t treat Indigenous people fairly should know the new office will be watching them. (CBC News)

FSIN Vice-Chief David Pratt was also at the announcement of the new ombudsperson. He said that about 72 per cent of health-care workers are doing a great job at reconciliation, but 26 to 28 per cent of them are not. He had a message for those that aren’t. 

“We’re watching you. This office will be watching you and you better straighten out,” he said.  “You better start treating First Nations people properly when they come into the ER and the clinics, because now this office will be working to ensure that those stories are dealt with.”

In a statement, the Saskatchewan government said it “recognizes there is no place for racism in our health system and the Ministry of Health takes any concerns related to quality of care very seriously.” “Our government was pleased to attend the grand opening of the First Nations Health Ombudsperson’s office and looks forward to working with their office to strengthen culturally responsive services.”

According to a news release from Indigenous Services Canada from last year, the federal government is providing $1.17 million to the FSIN to establish the office and plans to provide more money in the coming two years.

“The Government of Canada will continue to work with Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners across the country to ensure that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis have recourse — no matter where they seek services — when they experience instances of racism and discrimination in our health systems.”


Aishwarya Dudha, Reporter

Aishwarya Dudha is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan based in Saskatoon. She has previously worked for Global News and the Times of India. She specializes in social justice issues and elevating voices of vulnerable people. She can be reached at