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Ontario Human Rights Commission announces development of policy to address Indigenous-specific discrimination in Ontario’s healthcare system

April 18, 2024

NationTalk: TORONTO — Today, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) announced its commitment to work with Indigenous partners to develop human rights policy guidance to address and combat long-standing and widespread Indigenous-specific discrimination in Ontario’s healthcare system.

The OHRC’s policy guidance will:

  • provide practical guidance to healthcare providers on what they should do to meet their Ontario Human Rights Code (Code) obligations; and
  • help First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and urban Indigenous people understand how they are protected by the Code when seeking healthcare services.

To inform this guidance, the OHRC will meet with Indigenous health professionals, organizations, and communities across the province in the coming months. By these interactions, the Commission aims to gain a deeper understanding of systemic concerns, barriers, and priorities related to Indigenous-specific discrimination in the delivery of healthcare in Ontario.

As well, the OHRC is launching an online survey to gather information about lived experiences. First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and urban Indigenous people who have experienced discrimination when receiving healthcare services are invited to complete the survey. The OHRC also invites family members, caregivers, service providers and other people who have witnessed Indigenous-specific discrimination in healthcare to take part in the survey

The Commission will report back on what it hears during the meetings and through the survey in an engagement report.

“Indigenous-specific discrimination is pervasive throughout our healthcare system. This is intolerable. The Commission calls for immediate and practical change. The engagements and the survey are the start of the Commission’s work to develop vital human rights guidance to help prevent and address this discrimination,” said Patricia DeGuire, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission. “We acknowledge and are grateful for the past work done by Wabano and other Indigenous organizations and communities to document the harm and consequences of Indigenous-specific discrimination and call for change. We hope the Commission’s guidance will provide a valuable tool to hold the healthcare system accountable.”

Quick Facts

  • Anti-Indigenous discrimination and racism in the healthcare system is a key determinant of poor Indigenous health outcomes, leading to very serious, and sometimes lethal, consequences, such as the tragic experiences of Brian Sinclair, Joyce Echaquan, Brent Sky and Helen Winterstein.
  • It is well-documented that Indigenous people score significantly lower than the general Ontario population on a range of health metrics:
    • As of 2013, life expectancy for Indigenous people remained about 10 years lower than the non-Indigenous population (71 years compared to 81 years in 2004 and 82 years in 2013).
    • Rates of chronic conditions are significantly higher in First Nation, Inuit, and Métis populations than in the general Ontario population. 63% of First Nations people off-reserve and 61% of Métis suffer from one or more chronic conditions, compared to 47% of the non-Indigenous population.
  • Collectively, experiences of racism and discriminatory treatment from healthcare professionals have led to a lack of trust in, and unwillingness to access, health services and has caused Indigenous people to delay or avoid seeking timely essential care. Participants at the OHRC’s 2018 Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights dialogue raised these factors and poor health outcomes as issues of significant concern.

Additional Resources

Media contact:

Adewonuola Johnson

Senior Issues and Media Relations Specialist (DES)
Ontario Human Rights Commission